In Others’ Words: Wrestling Match

wrestle with your suffering Flanagan 2014

It’s not a question of if we’re going to face suffering.

It’s not even a question of when or what kind of suffering we’re going to experience.

In the end, it comes down to this: Who is going to win the wrestling match? The suffering? Or you?

When I first began to wrestle with the stark reality of abuse in my life, I wasn’t sure I’d come out on the other side of the process alive. I’d let the pain skulk around in the dark for so many years, dragging the wretched truth out into the light was exhausting. Crazy-making. And some days it seemed best to just let it stay hidden.

The showdown between lies and truth — and the acceptance of what happened to me was a three year ordeal.

Some might say it would have been better to leave all of that in the past. Never mention it. Was all of that suffering even necessary?

God desires truth in the innermost being (Psalm 51:6b NASB)– and I longed to be true, inside and out.

For me, suffering often clarifies the line between lies and truth. What do I believe? Who do I believe? What falsehood have I embraced as truth? And am I willing to see that lie for what it is: faulty support that won’t bear my weight when I lean on it?

The blessing of suffering is how it burns away the dross of blurred vision. We can finally look past the tinsel and glittery lights and stop grasping for a gold ring that is mere Paper Mache. We find Truth. We find Everlasting Love. We come to the end of ourselves . . . and find that we don’t have to be strong enough — because God is.

In Your Words: When you’ve wrestled with suffering, what blessings have you discovered? Who has come alongside you and helped you when you’ve felt weak? What would you say to someone who might be suffering today and in search of a blessing?

[Tweet “Why We Wrestle with Suffering #lifequotes”] [Tweet “What Blessings Have You Found in Suffering? #lifequotes #faith”]

 

 

 

 

 

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21 Comments

  1. July 21, 2014, 5:52 am   /  Reply

    Wow, Beth. I opened my inbox a few seconds ago and your blog piece greeted me, ready to launch my day. This is a totally amazing, powerful topic. I appreciate you candidly speaking about suffering–a subject most people don’t want to share about, either because it brings the right kind of attention to them, or the wrong.

    Before I continue, I want to say that I had no idea that you’ve suffered by the hand of abuse. I’m truly sorry you have. It’s not easy, but it appears as if you’ve found a means to live with your grief rather than by the stranglehold of your grief. I hope you don’t mind me saying, but from what I’ve seen and read, you’ve learned to accept God into your heart and let Him take care of your pain and battles.

    And that’s what I’m doing. No snap of magical fingers or wave of fairy dust to make my life “Golden” but rather, I’m daily learning that His peace in my heart is far better than life’s riches… or even a book contract, although if He chooses to indulge me a bit on the contract thingy, I won’t object.

    Despite the beauties of this world, people have made it ugly and scary. I’m trying to encourage others that the only way to brave each new day is to grip His hand. I’ve also learned–and I’m a latecomer to this–that there is freeing power to give thanks for what I do have… and not worry about what I don’t have. LIfe–with the believer’s prize of making it to Heaven–isn’t or shouldn’t be based upon who has the biggest house or the bank account.

    • July 21, 2014, 6:22 am   /  Reply

      Elaine:
      I read this quote last week and knew I wanted to share it.
      As I began writing my post, the focus turned in a way I originally didn’t imagine. I’ve learned the abuse is not the defining moment of my life — and that’s how I choose to live. Other moments define me: other choices I have made define me — not the choices of others.
      I appreciate your compassion this morning — and admire your desire to “encourage others that the only way to brave each new day is to grip His hand.”

      • Sonia Meeter
        July 23, 2014, 8:06 am   /  Reply

        Oh…. I love that! “Other moment define me: other choices I have made define me – not the choices of others.”

        That is a great quote for my adopted daughters!

        • July 23, 2014, 3:22 pm   /  Reply

          🙂
          I come back to this truth over and over again.

  2. July 21, 2014, 6:42 am   /  Reply

    The main benefits that come to mind are enhanced compassion and the knowledge that one’s limits are further away than one might have thought.

    I hesitate to use the word ‘blessings’ in specific regard to suffering; pain can reach a point beyond which it’s just pain. The blessing is the ability to glean some positive positioning from it.

    • July 21, 2014, 6:48 am   /  Reply

      The intertwining of suffering and blessing … that is truly the hardest and most challenging of all lessons … I know many who chose to lay down their lives — what they thought life would look like — sifting through the emotional debris, asking God, “Okay, what can you create out of what’s left? Show me. Help me see it.”

      • July 21, 2014, 7:12 am   /  Reply

        What’s left…yes, that’s me, right here, right now.

        I’m sorry for the abuse you suffered, Beth. I had a feeling that might be something in your past, because it was part of my early life, as well. One gets a sense from others’ words.

        My abuse brought few blessing, however – except for the implacable desire to summarily execute any and all who would take advantage of a child.

        • July 21, 2014, 11:48 am   /  Reply

          Thank you for your compassion, Andrew.
          I think anyone who has been abused as a child becomes a defender of children.

  3. Mary
    July 21, 2014, 11:18 am   /  Reply

    “We don’t have to be strong enough, because God is.” This indeed is good news. I also think it is when He does His best work. In essence, when we are the weakest, we step out of His way. Then He gets the glory for bringing beauty from our ashes.

    • July 21, 2014, 11:48 am   /  Reply

      Truth indeed, Mary.
      When we are weak, we step out of his way.
      Or we lay down and He steps in front of us and protects us.
      Or he reaches down and picks us up and carries us.

    • July 21, 2014, 12:30 pm   /  Reply

      I loved that line too, Mary! It struck me deep.

  4. July 21, 2014, 12:29 pm   /  Reply

    Beth, what an amazing post. I’m still processing it. I’ve not endured abuse, and my heart aches for those who have. I love that you said you haven’t allowed it to define you.

    I used to try to avoid suffering at all costs. As if I really could. I’m learning to lean into it and to look for God in the midst of it. I’ve discovered sometimes I don’t see the blessings until I’m on the other side of that particular event of suffering. I’m learning that God is always faithful, and He’s always beside me, even when I can’t see or feel him in the midst of suffering.

    Some of the blessings is a greater empathy for others. Suffering can produce compassion for others because it widens the heart and the mind to see beyond myself. Sometimes the healing it results in brings wholeness. Other times, it brings a greater trust in and dependence in God.

    I’m going to be thinking on this topic some more. Thanks for your transparency.

    • July 21, 2014, 4:43 pm   /  Reply

      Jeanne:
      I agree: I do think suffering teaches us to be empathetic and compassionate to others. And that is a great blessing — to be better able to understand another person.

  5. July 21, 2014, 4:28 pm   /  Reply

    Beth, you don’t give off a victim mentality at all. Probably because you have chosen not to let abuse define you. You’re a strong, encouraging woman. That’s evident to those who know you. 🙂

    I’ll be honest, I get tired of suffering. Very tired. Between the physical pain and emotions of the losses I’ve had, I’m ready for a break.

    But I do love the idea of wrestling with suffering until you receive a blessing. I talk about my journey through grief on my blog, and God has been using it in other’s lives. That is a blessing.

    God is enough. It takes suffering to make you see it and believe it sometimes.

    Thanks for sharing this Beth!

    • July 21, 2014, 4:45 pm   /  Reply

      Mary:
      Suffering is exhausting. I do believe we are to comfort one another. I found my “security net” of friends — trusted, close friends — who walked with me through this time and helped me find healing. I also think wise, biblical counseling is a must.

  6. Susan
    July 21, 2014, 4:49 pm   /  Reply

    Freedom. True, wide-open freedom. Suffering wraps you up tight and digs in deep, but once you let God walk you through it there is a freedom that is so sweet:)

    • July 21, 2014, 8:47 pm   /  Reply

      Amen, Susan. Amen. The wide-open spaces of God’s grace.

  7. July 21, 2014, 6:29 pm   /  Reply

    Suffering is hard, Beth. No doubt about it. No escaping it. It’s tough. But when we persevere in God’s strength THROUGH it, He shines in our lives in ways we never could have imagined. Some blessings may seem small to other people, but they’re huge miracles to us who suffered greatly to get there. Others are obvious to everybody.

    I almost drowned while having swim lessons as a baby (my parents did NOT repeat the experience when my sis came along three years later), and again when I was ten years old. Swim lessons never did work, and the near-death experience at age ten instilled in me a fear of water, enclosed slides, docks, and bridges that spanned over water. After suffering many years with these crippling fears, God worked with me bit by bit, healing me each step of the way. He gave me courage to step both feet onto a dock; I scurried off and several feet away about three seconds later. He taught me to swim (no other lessons ever worked) over the years between 10 and 13. After that, I was cool in pools as long as I wasn’t going down a slide. But I was still afraid to go into open water. Lakes are the worst. But, over the last couple summers, my family and I have visited Lakes Erie, Michigan, and Superior, and I WENT IN!!! All three of them. 🙂 And I’ve been on a long wooden bridge/dock thing for more than three seconds. It was actually about ten minutes, and my anxiety only went up to about a four or a five (instead of the usual 12 or 15 or so on a ten-point scale). Oh yeah, God’s been healing me over the last many years. Each year comes with its own challenges, not all based around water, but through each one I find a deeper faith in God and renewed and invigorated strength in Him. God is so good.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

    • July 21, 2014, 8:48 pm   /  Reply

      I just grinned and grinned and grinned when I read your comment, Andrea.
      You are BRAVE, my friend. BRAVE!!

      • July 23, 2014, 5:14 pm   /  Reply

        Thanks, Beth! It’s weird to me to be called brave, but I have felt courageous and brave at times during the process I described. Mostly, the bravery felt real once I had already been brave and made the progress. But then, I guess that would be called accomplishment.

  8. July 23, 2014, 9:07 pm   /  Reply

    […] On the side: Beth Vogt also wrote a blog post this week about suffering. Click here to read In Others’ Words: Wrestling Match. […]

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