Several passages in the Bible refer to the suffering that the Hebrews and several prophets had to endure as they attempted to survive in a variety of hostile environments. A number of times, Jesus noted that he must undergo suffering at the hands of men in order to fulfill certain prophecies, and redeem fallen humanity. He certainly was an accurate predictor.
In these biblical writings, the characters did not seek suffering, but understood over time that ailments are part of life. Indeed, we learn that if we attempt to avoid suffering at all costs, it will find us when we least expect it. Obstacles come in many forms due to life events that we can’t always control.
For example, we can strive to live a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn’t guarantee we’ll never have an accident, fail an exam, get sick, lose a family member, friend, or a job. We can do our best to meet each day with a positive frame of mind and a balanced perspective, but there will always be external events that impact our well-being. It’s almost a given that most folks will not be accepted into their primary choice of a college, and our careers rarely turn out the way we expect them to.
The past two years have generated plenty of struggle for people of all ages. The pandemic caused an array of health issues due to lengthy across-the-board lockdowns, instead of targeted protocols for vulnerable groups. Inconsistent health mandates that were highly flawed contributed to the suffering inflicted upon businesses, churches, families, and schools. Constantly shifting goalposts led to confusion and depression because folks couldn’t socialize and express themselves normally. Remote learning was substandard, and quality of life indices hit a downward spiral because dysfunctional unscientific policies unleashed suffering.
How do we confront the great challenge of suffering without losing hope? There are many coping strategies to deal with emotional, mental, physical, social, and spiritual maladies. Most of the time, you don’t have to endure all five of these at once, but one form of suffering can lead to another if it isn’t confronted ASAP. I offer my guidance because I have had to wrestle with all of these five domains at various times, and I hope you can resolve these challenges faster than I have.
First of all, when any type of suffering arrives, greet it and accept it as real. Don’t slough it off as an annoyance to be dealt with in the distant future. Next, determine the degree of the anguish to discover whether you need outside assistance, or if you can solve it yourself with some divine guidance.
Third, if your suffering has an emotional source, perhaps you have internalized hurtful relationship events and can’t release them. Try to breathe slowly from the abdomen. Close your eyes and inhale/exhale from the nose. This has a calming effect, as you visualize how to forgive others and yourself for painful incidents from the past.
Fourth, mental ailments can be caused by over-thinking, which can generate anxiety, insomnia and weight loss. Once again, close your eyes and learn to breathe slowly till you sense a calm state of peacefulness. Open your eyes and strive to analyze thoughts to a lesser degree, as you move beyond yourself to embrace life in a larger environment.
Fifth, if the pain is physical, examine your habits. Are you getting enough exercise, balanced nutrition, and rest? Conversely, over-doing exercise, indulging in junk food, or sleeping too much can sometimes usher in aches and pains. Healthy habits such as moving around will keep the circulation active and revitalize your energy.
Sixth, social suffering affects many people who are either shy or haven’t developed social skills beyond their family circle. A proactive method to transcend this dilemma is to gradually move outside your comfort zone. Start to greet people, or strike up a conversation with someone new when you have the opportunity. Moreover, you can volunteer to help others who are afflicted with daily struggles.
Seventh, when faith in ourselves and in God wanes, we can experience a crisis in confidence, which is a type of spiritual malaise. In this scenario, it’s difficult to determine the reason for the discomfort. In the poem, “Dark Night of the Soul,” St. John of the Cross articulates this desolation. Authentic prayer from the heart can help to restore your faith and trust as you return to the true path of life’s meaning and purpose.
In all of these situations, you can build character by learning lessons from prior experience. You can overcome panic attacks and other stressful events by not only accepting but expecting unexpected rough patches in life so they don’t take you by surprise. You can also look beyond yourself and think about how others suffer deeply from conflicts, poverty, and natural disasters. Imagine the agony that the long-suffering people of Afghanistan and Ukraine are undergoing each day.
You will then understand that there are many degrees of pain, and ours might not be so bad after all. Dear Next Generation, I must also remind myself periodically to heed the same advice that I offer to you.
God bless you.
Christian Milord, California
Educator, mentor, USCG veteran, writer
What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?
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