The power of music…
I love music that reaches deep within my spirit and evokes strong emotions and new insights. I find song lyrics have the ability to grab my attention, raising thoughts and feelings about key issues in my life.
Songs often bring pain to the surface. The artist pours out words that echo my own heart. I feel the relief of being heard and understood by a fellow sufferer who’s “been there”, affirmed by their empathy and compassion. Knowing I am not alone encourages me to “keep hanging in there”.
Some songs are so powerful and relevant they evoke “light-bulb moments”… they bring insight and understanding, and strengthen my determination to keep working on the way forward.
The pain of suffering…
I know many people (friends and family) who are wrestling with big issues in life… bereavement, relationship issues, divorce, family dysfunction, mental illness, faith issues, overwhelming work stress, to name just a few.
I too face some of these issues… a 16 year cancer journey with Rosie, and her dying 18 months ago, decades of my past overshadowed by depression, 12 years of not working impacting my identity and self-value, wrestling with questions about God and faith…
Very likely you too are facing big issues and have experienced significant trauma and pain at some point.
We all face tough, painful situations and issues in life… unexpected trauma can strike out of nowhere, ongoing issues can plague us for months, years, decades. We can rant and rave against suffering or perhaps choose to accept and learn from it. Either way, by definition, suffering is painful and we avoid it wherever possible.
Ironically, as much as we may hate to admit it, suffering is fundamental to life.
To be human is to suffer… there is no way of escaping this truth.
The gift of suffering…
Nobody wants to suffer.
An undeniable reality however is that is that suffering forges character traits and abilities that cannot be built in our lives in any other way.
Compassion, empathy, and the ability to support others are borne out of suffering.
It is impossible to truly identify with the pain of others unless we have experienced pain ourselves.
Suffering develops our self-understanding and skills for managing life.
It grows strength, resilience and patience in ways that nothing else can.
Suffering is a great teacher.
How can we understand joy if we have never experienced grief?
How can we understand peace if we have never been stressed, anxious or felt despair?
How can we grasp the value of relationships if we have never felt alone?
Or the joy of being loved and accepted if we’ve never been rejected?
Suffering sifts the garbage out of our lives.
Suffering helps crystallize what is really important in our lives.
For example, life-threatening traumas or the loss of loved ones inevitably shifts our focus onto what we really value: relationships, our values and beliefs, the things we really want to do with our lives.
Suffering helps us recognize our life is fragile and finite, and will soon be over (perhaps sooner than we expect). It forces us to ask what do we really want to do with our lives, instead of endlessly filling our lives with frantic, stressful activity that leaves no time or energy for following our dreams.
Suffering reminds us that what we normally value in life… material possessions, jobs, money, status… will be worth very little on our death beds. It hits home that our time would be far better devoted to family, other people, making the world a better place, and to truly loving and caring for ourselves.
The most precious gift of suffering is that it provides a path to discovering and grasping a resilient inner peace that is independent of the stress and turmoil in our own lives and the world around us. In fact suffering is probably the only path to this peace.
When it all seems too hard …
Two songs are currently touching my spirit…
They inspire me to grasp my dreams and live them,
to speak out my truth instead of remaining silent,
to no longer allow fear of failure or rejection hold me back.
Watch out… these songs just might encourage and inspire you too, and set you on the path to freedom!
They just might get you through when it all seems too hard…
Sara Bareilles – Brave
You can be amazing, you can be the outcast, or you can start speaking up
I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say
and let the words fall out honestly
Your history of silence won’t do you any good,
Let your words be anything but empty,
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue,
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Show me how big your brave is
I wanna see you be brave!
Rachel Platten – Stand By You
Hands, put your empty hands in mine
And scars, show me all the scars you hide
And hurt, I know you’re hurting, but so am I
And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open too
‘Cause I’m gonna stand by you
I’ll be your eyes ’til yours can shine.
And when you can’t rise, well, I’ll crawl with you on hands and knees.
Even if we’re breaking down, we can find a way to break through.
Even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through Hell with you.
Love, you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna stand by you.
(Song lyrics copyright and courtesy of http://www.azlyrics.com/)
A friend told me today she went to comment this post but burst into tears and couldn’t do it. She told me about the traumatic situation she’s currently facing … “It was just too close to home and I couldn’t write.”
My wife, Rosie, said to me repeatedly through my years of endless episodes of depression, “This too will pass”. Even though this always proved to be true and each episode did eventually pass, I hated hearing those words when I was in the ‘pits’. It is very hard to hear and accept positive statements about suffering when there is no end in sight.
Many times people tried to encourage me by explaining how suffering builds empathy and character. As much I knew this was true, I still resented hearing it when deeply depressed. My silent response was, “So bloody what!! What I need now is relief from this torment… not some ‘pat answer’ about building character!”
So, if you read my recent post and found the positive spin on suffering difficult because you’re in the midst it, I’m sorry you found it tough. I know all too well how frustrated and angry you can feel when someone not experiencing your pain says how good it will be for you!
Nonetheless I do stand by what I wrote. I just wish it were possible to develop deep empathy for others and resilience in your own life without going through times when you feel like your life is being torn apart.