Suffering well isn't putting on a happy face.

Instead, it is the ability to keep on going when everything is screaming at you to stop.

Suffering well will sometimes look like tears, and other times like joy. There will be moments of steadfast hope and occasions of fear and despair. All are part of what it means to be human, and all make up the larger picture of suffering well.

And suffering on any gradient scale is still suffering. Sometimes its emotional, sometimes physical. Sometimes both. The point is not whether your suffering is on the scale of a fatal health crisis or a temporary but life-altering emotional state; the point is that when suffering comes, you have the ability to use it for the good of yourself and others.

Just one in a million stories...

I have had the honor of sitting with a few people who were near the end of their lives, one of which was her dear friend Tricia. 

I met Tricia during an outreach I was doing as part of an anti-human trafficking ministry. We visited local adult entertainment venues in the surrounding areas, letting the women know they were not alone and that someone cared. It was during this time when I met Tricia at a local bar. She had been exploited for decades. I knew Tricia for only two short years before she passed away from complications of Hepatitis B. 

On her death bed, Tricia’s body was so emaciated you could see the tendons under the thin layer of skin. The hollows in her cheek were so pronounced that I thought they would break through.

And yet her eyes glimmered. She knew she would soon meet her God—her God who loved her. “I know that everything is going to be alright,” she whispered to me even as her eyes sought to fight to stay open.

And it would be. I had seen God work in her life over recent months in a way I had never imagined possible. From sadness to joy. Suffering sitting in tandem with hope. Tricia suffered well and left a deep impression on me.

In their book Reconciling All Things, Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice share an example from the movie Hotel Rwanda, which depicted the horrors of the 1994 genocide that left over 800,000 people dead in just 100 days. Paul, a hotel manager who had been providing refuge for those being targeted by militia, had run out of water and food and believed the end was drawing near.

In the midst of that great suffering, Paul takes one moment to just be with his wife. He lights a candle, and opens a bottle of wine, and simply enjoys being with her. The authors write of this moment:

We submit that sabbath in a broken world is something like this—knowing in the midst of action when it is time to be still on a rooftop, even as the whole world is falling apart, spending time with the God we love. When the One we love whispers to us, “All will be well,” it is more than wishful thinking. It is the fundamental truth of the universe.


Suffering Well looks like:

The child who was abandoned in an orphanage growing up who has now grasped the true meaning of “family” and who seeks to build love into every relationship he has.

The woman in the corporate world who has been passed over countless times for that promotion, being grateful for a job that pays the bills and allows her to grow her skillset until another opportunity emerges. 

The mom who deals with chronic pain on a daily basis even as she gives her all to raising her young kids and giving them the compassion and care they need. 


Has there been a point in your life when you’ve had to suffer and how did you respond? Who around has displayed the ability to suffer well?