Elisabeth Elliot defines suffering as “having something you don’t want or wanting something you don’t have” in her book Suffering is Never for Nothing. One of the reasons I enjoy this definition of suffering so much is because it helps us to acknowledge our pain, even in the midst of witnessing global pain and trauma.
Before we can learn how to manage our suffering – since it is an inevitable part of life – we have to know how to identify when we are suffering. Our personal worlds can get so busy that we do not even notice how we are feeling. Stopping to check in with yourself every now and then is absolutely crucial. Scan from head to toes – is there anything bothering you? Check in with your thoughts. What do they sound like? Look into your heart – is anything aching?
The next step after observing there is a problem is to reflect and see if there is anything you can do about this issue. Ask yourself: Is there anything I can do about this? If the answer is yes, move forward taking actions and developing the plan. This can be easier said than done. If the answer is no, then we have to practice things like radical acceptance, detachment, and thought-stopping. Ruminating and dwelling on something when we cannot do anything about it actually exacerbates suffering.
Just as Elisabeth Elliot’s wisdom has helped form a clearer definition of what suffering is and is not, we can examine her method for moving through suffering. She shares that we are to “Do the next thing” and mentions that she doesn’t:
“…know any simpler formula for peace, for relief from stress and anxiety than that very practical, very down-to-earth word of wisdom. Do the next thing. That has gotten me through more agonies than anything else I could recommend.”
If you are human and there is breath in your lungs, you will experience pain and suffering. There is no way around this fact, so it is absolutely necessary to learn how to manage in the midst of suffering.
If you need help – please reach out! Counselors at Amy Wine Counseling Center would love to walk with you in your valleys and celebrate with you at your peaks.
Sarah Dailey, LPC
I help my clients as they walk through life’s valleys. Meeting them in the dark places to acknowledge and support my clients enables them to explore and discover their own worth and value. Just as we are hurt in relationships, I believe that we are also healed in relationship with one another. Together, we will find the tools and insight to process your experience and hopefully you will leave feeling encouraged. In particular, I enjoy marriage and family therapy.
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