There are perhaps two kinds of suffering. The explainable suffering could include heartbreak caused by consequences of natural processes, choices related to wrong living practices, or harm done by sinful people. We understand this kind of suffering. There is a reason for it. Somehow, an explanation makes it just a little more bearable.
Then there is unexplainable suffering. It is shocking and unreasonable: a loved one is killed by a drunk driver or goes missing; you are downsized, diagnosed, or discarded. There is no tidy explanation for what has happened and it left you dazed and devastated.
Both kinds of suffering incite our cry, “Why? Why me? Why now?” Or, “Why did I marry that person, make that decision, do that thing, have this happen to me…?” Tragedy and suffering may prompt us to find something or someone to blame; perhaps we find ourselves on the chopping block.
Suffering always drives us somewhere: to our knees, to our despair, to our bitterness or unforgiveness, or perhaps to our pillow or pills. In better times, coping mechanisms fall into place, healing strategies are developed, and support sought. Other times, our strategies include forays into denial, distractions, and doggedly doing work and these may help for a while. But in the bad times, pain slides back onto the surface of our consciousness and suffering is back pounding on the door and demanding an audience.
To leave the dark valley of suffering we have to walk out of it. We may be sideswiped by sneaker waves of grief. We may be buffeted by burning desert storms. But we will have to keep walking through it and not around it. It’s not for the faint of heart and yet this is often where we find ourselves.
Suffering probably won’t answer the question why, be gotten over quickly, be completely understood, or be embraced for its own sake. If you are in a season of suffering, find a companion or two to walk with you for a while until you regain strength and hope. Or consider journeying with a counsellor who could keep the faith with you with the deep compassion and shared experience of a sojourner.