The Heroism of Suffering


Surprisingly, I have never been injured before, besides the usual boo-boos that I got while riding scooters and climbing stuff as a kid. I have been sick a good amount of times, but I suppose that is another post for another day. 

And yet, there are people everywhere who are suffering from injuries, handicaps, and disease. Many of these are the real-life heroes, the mild, optimistic, contented angels lying in hospital beds. They inadvertently teach other people important life lessons and/or make them feel like total jerks in comparison. 

I will be honest, I have had fantasies related to this. I have imagined the scenario of getting some kind of deadly illness or serious injury, only so I can lie on my deathbed and be a perfect saint about it. I know it’s pretty stupid of me, if not something else. Call me a coward, but sometimes I dream of being set free from the cares of this world and “peacing out” in a way that makes up for all the wrong I’ve done. And yes, it would be nice if people thought about me and missed me. Sometimes, it seems like death is the only way to achieve that. 

As a much less extreme, but still a good example, I met someone the other day who was on crutches. We were the only two who showed up to Bible study. We talked for a while and started to get along. Eventually, I sensed that it would be somewhat appropriate/hopefully-not-offensive to ask her how she got injured, since it was a recent thing from what I heard. She laughed and said that she “didn’t mind” and began relating this story about trampolines. She mentioned a sprain, but she also used the word “fun” several times in her explanation. 

Long afterwards, I realized something. “I think I forgot to pity her! Oh no, I don’t really remember expressing my pity!”

Of course, one lens through which to view this situation is just that I am a bad person. Okay, so you may have a point there. But there is another way. You see, she didn’t give me much opportunity to express my pity. She was talking about how fun it was a lot of the time. And since maybe I had expected something a little more serious, I found myself being glad that she didn’t break something. So yes, I could have interjected some more sympathy, but she didn’t give me much chance. Somehow, she changed the subject, turning it back to me. I think that a few breaths after we talked about her injury, she was sympathizing with my situation as a commuter (context: someone who drive or takes the bus to college) and inviting me to something. How did that even happen?

What she did is something that is not easy to do. What she did was pass up an opportunity to garner sympathy. And what’s more, she tried to help me out instead. That right there is Christian character. That is humility, resilience, kindness.

So there is a simple, everyday example that doesn’t involve melodrama. And it helps me to illustrate my point. You don’t have to be on your deathbed to be a saint. You don’t need to die to be appreciated and set free from the cares of this world. You just have to love God, live for God.

I hope that I can take a page from this girl’s book. I hope that I will pass up opportunities to garner sympathy. I too want to look in the face of life and say, “Are those all the lemons you got? Really man?” I want to undermine my own struggles to the point where people don’t even notice them. I don’t want to complain, but I want to lift up my cross and endure until the bittersweet end. 

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV





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