I hate being uncomfortable. I don't like being cold. I don't like being sore. I don't like being sad. I don't like being numb. And, while I believe that opposition leads to growth (like exercise), I'm still somewhat angry that learning and growth seem to need to hurt. I keep feeling like I could do so much more if only I weren't hobbled by the pain and problems I have.
And yet I am learning. I am learning that without need, I wouldn't seek help. And without divine help, I cannot become my best self.
For me one of the hardest parts of being an adult is watching those I love struggle with enormous problems. I wish I could fix it all. I can't. I hate depression, cancer, anxiety, poverty, unemployment, abuse, death, serious illness, loneliness, and all the other miserable pieces of this life.
In Genesis 3 we read that the earth was cursed for Adam's sake. In Doctrine and Covenants 122, after a large list of awful, painful possibilities, we are promised that, "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." Believing that promise in the face of great, prolonged suffering takes more faith and trust than I sometimes have. Especially when I am not the one suffering.
I recently ran across a quote by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She said:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.As I watch my dear friends and family weather many of the tragedies of life, I'm starting to agree with her. Beautiful people do not just happen. They are grown in the intersection of pain and redemption--when we "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
Nathaniel Givens recently wrote at Times and Seasons:
We are made to suffer, and this is true for both definitions of the word “made.” We were created to experience suffering within this life as part of the general plan. Once we get here, we are forced to undergo specific painful experiences. Some are God’s will. Some are random chance. Some are the result of the choices of others. Some we bring upon ourselves. It’s probably hopeless to try and figure out which is which.We are here to become Christ-like. We cannot do that without suffering. We are called to "bear one another's burdens...mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8-9) And we cannot do that if we avoid others' pain.
A good friend recently related to me how she had come to understand that one blessing that came out of a traumatic past was the knowledge of how to respond to people experiencing trauma. She said that mostly people need to have their trauma acknowledged, whether by a meal that is brought by or a phone call to check in or a hug with a sincere, "I'm so sorry."
Givens wrote about a large study that found that two thirds of the participants had experienced abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction as a child. Sorrow and pain aren't unique. All of us struggle. All of us hurt. As we learn of each others' wounds, let's be gentle with each other.
I love the thoughts in the post titled Beautiful Sorrow. The author describes perfectly the way I am learning (over and over) to deal with the sorrow of life.
Happiness doesn't drown sorrow, sorrow births happiness. We NEED to experience pain and sorrow, in order to know joy....If you can learn to embrace your sorrow, to let it wash over you, you can truly conquer it. Avoiding pain and sorrow, especially emotional pain, only leaves it hanging out there. It will always come back, and you will live in fear. As you address it head on, mull it over, allow it to hurt you, learn from it, pieces of it chip away until you are able to conquer it completely.I believe that pain and sorrow are necessary for us to change. I am learning that by clinging to Christ day by day, I can develop faith in him to replace my fear. Rather than worrying about what comes next, I can know that, whatever comes, he won't leave me and he will ultimately heal whatever breaks. For he is the Savior who has been sent to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give unto (those that mourn) beauty for ashes."
I am learning to trust that when Christ heals someone, they become better than they ever have been.
The beatitudes claim that it is a blessing to be to mourn or to hunger and thirst after righteousness or to be merciful or to be a peacemaker or to be persecuted. We cannot be peacemakers unless we are subjected to contention. We cannot be merciful unless we are unjustly treated. We cannot hunger and thirst after righteousness unless we lack it. We cannot mourn without loss. We cannot be persecuted without a persecutor. Yet we are told that these are blessings.
Christ asks for broken hearts and contrite spirits and promises to heal them. He cannot heal a heart that hasn't been broken. He can't gather spirits that haven't strayed. And he won't do anything unless we want it.
When we are subjected to war and violence and come to Christ with our imperfect desire to make peace, he helps us become more than had we never been violated. When we are unjustly used and turn to him, he helps us learn mercy on a much deeper level than we could have otherwise known. When we want to be righteous but fail over and over and yet turn to him, gradually we are made to not only be righteous but to be gentle with those around us who are struggling.
Over and over, as we turn to him in prayer, in scriptures, in song, in pain, humbly and full of doubt, Christ takes our brokenness and creates a glorious, complex whole that we never could have become on our own. And in doing so he draws us closer to himself, to those around us, and to ourselves. And the beautiful atonement creates beautiful people.