A Ramble About Suffering

We were talking with some friends recently about the hard times in life. Peaks and valleys kind of stuff. Good seems to follow bad and bad seems to follow good and it’s hard to remember the other when in the midst of one. That kind of stuff.

Michelle and I expressed that we both grew up with a general belief that life was supposed to get better and easier and more comfortable. As we’ve encountered difficulty it’s shaken up our individual beliefs and assumptions about how life was supposed to work. A friend expressed that he feels like much of life is spent in valleys and that we waste much of our lives by wishing we weren’t in the valley instead of walking in and through it.

This lead to a conversation about suffering. The value of suffering. The lessons, strength, growth, and power that can only be gained through suffering. We can’t avoid our way to a stronger anything. We can’t be comfortable and get stronger at the same time. “Beast Mode” is not found on the couch.

In physical terms, exercise actually breaks down muscles that then become stronger by rebuilding. That’s why there can be some pain. That’s why recovery and rest are important.

Every time I’ve run a new distance, gone farther than I have before, my next “normal” distance run is faster. I can actually feel that my body is stronger. But that new distance is always achieved by suffering for it. Even going one mile further than you ever have before will involve some sort of suffering. Maybe mental, maybe physical, maybe emotional; but rest assured, the price for new strength is suffering.

And yet we want to avoid suffering. I am as guilty of this as anyone. Probably more guilty than many. I seek comfort. I want things to be easy. This is not at all intended as a lecture from me. If anything, it’s for me.

We need to stop thinking that suffering is bad. We need to learn to stay in it when it hurts. We need to learn how to live well even in the valleys because the only way out of a valley, the only way to reach any summit, is to climb. And climbing is a struggle. If you struggle long enough it just might be called suffering.

Without suffering there is no growth. There are no new heights; no new distances. In the moment it may not be fun and it definitely isn’t easy, but we need a bigger view than that.

I think we need others around us who have that bigger view too. Think about it, on your own it’s a run. In a group it’s a race; an event. Somehow when everyone is in it we all win in the end. The strong ones inspire and push the ones who are suffering and seeing those suffering souls continue to push on inspires the strong to keep pushing themselves.

I’m starting to ramble.

Suffering isn’t bad. We shouldn’t suffer alone.

What do you think?

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