Creative Suffering: How to Find Hope When You Are Hurting

How is a Christian to grieve honestly while also hoping deeply? When life’s losses and crosses come our way, what does it feel like and look like to suffer well? In this post and others to follow, we ponder how to find hope when you’re hurting.

Take Heart

We need to be able to deal with life’s losses in the context of God’s healing. Jesus did. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace. With one word Jesus quiets the quest of our soul. We thirst for peace—shalom, wholeness, stillness, rest, healing.

Take heart. Hope. Come alive again.

That’s what you long for. I know it is, because it’s what I want.

The Anvil of God

We live in a fallen world and it often falls on us. When it does, when the weight of the world crushes us, squeezes the life out of us, we need hope. New life. A resuscitated heart. A resurrected life.

Brilliantly the Apostle Paul deals simultaneously with grieving and hoping. Do not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Paul, who offers people the Scriptures and his own soul (1 Thessalonians 2:8), skillfully ministers to sufferers.

To blend losses and healing, grieving and hoping, requires creative suffering. Frank Lake powerfully depicts the process.

“There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God and man, and battered into a meaningful shape.”

Notice what the anvil is—a lively relationship with God and God’s people. Consider the process—battering. Ponder the result—meaning, purpose. What cannot be removed, God makes creatively bearable.

Converting Suffering

Another individual, this one intimately acquainted with grief, also pictures creative suffering. British hostage, Terry Waite, spent 1,460 days in solitary confinement in his prison cell in Beirut. Reflecting on his savage mistreatment and his constant struggle to maintain his faith, he reveals:

“I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that’s the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it and eventually convert it.”

Creative suffering doesn’t simply accept suffering, through the Cross it creatively converts it. For the Christian, our desire is to learn how to grieve but not as those who have no hope.

The Rest of the Story

To do that we need a GPS: God’s Positioning Scripture. In our next post we’ll ponder some directional markers on a real and raw, biblical and relevant grief and growth journey.

Join the Conversation

What do you think of Terry Waite’s perspective that Christianity doesn’t lesson suffering, but enables you to face it, work through it, and convert it?

Note: Excerpted from God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting.

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