Vulnerability, discomfort, suffering…like hugging a bear.
A friend passed along some lyrics this morning that really struck me. They said, “You don’t know peace until you’ve had suffering.” In the same song are the lyrics, “I hope against hope for some resistance, been taking it out on my system.”
Amidst all the recent news of suicide, these 2 sets of lyrics struck me. For me, my ability to experience peace has come as a result of the experience I’ve had suffering. Times of suffering have been opportunities to learn, get closer to God, and to remind me how lucky I am not to suffer all the time…and not to take those moments of peace for granted.
That second part of the lyrics…”I hope against hope for some resistance, been taking it out on my system.” That is a reminder to me that I have to surround myself with things that pull me back out of the darkness of suffering and find hope. Hope that can bring me to a place of peace.
I typically only find that hope in prayer and personal reflection or sharing my suffering and mistakes with others. We all suffer. We all make mistakes. It is how we learn and how we grow. Give yourself grace, feel your feelings, and make a plan to work through things. A friend recently told me, “You can’t sit on the pain, and you can’t let it sit on you, you just have to sit with it.” (I picture myself sitting with a bear, not knowing what will happen.) Hurt is hurt, and although there is a spectrum of suffering (someone struggling to find their next meal vs. struggling to find a date), you have to allow yourself to process those feelings. Shoving them to a deep, dark place can be emotionally, spiritually, and physically harmful.
Finding peace is a daily practice for me. It starts with prayer. Opening up and listening to God’s purpose for me that day. Three things I’m grateful for next, and maybe a morning scripture or devotional reading. Then gym time to work out the physical anxiety and stress. Throughout the day I try to root myself in the question, “What would God want me to do in this situation?” My best evenings include time for reading and learning, and then reflection whether that’s quiet meditation or active journaling. Finally, I squeeze in another devotional reading from my favorite devotional “Jesus Calling,” and repeat 3 different affirmations I have written out 5 times to plant them in my subconscious and put me in a positive, peaceful place before bed.
When that individual routine isn’t working, I reach out for help to gain perspective and hope. I have “go to” people for different parts of my life: professional, spiritual, emotional, social, physical, etc.
Being vulnerable with others is tough. I frequently get caught in: What if they judge me? What if they don’t love me anymore? I feel ashamed and regretful at times, but when I take the leap, I find it freeing and fulfilling. I no longer have to hide from who I am or the mistakes I make. I can build deeper and more meaningful relationships because of the level of honesty with that person, and it has helped me to love myself more.
It has also helped me love others more fully, and give them grace. If people in my lowest lows didn’t give me grace, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I could be a drug addict, I could be in jail, I could be in an abusive relationship, I could be estranged from my friends and family, I could be homeless or hungry. Humans want peace. Suffering gets in the way. It changes perspective, it changes behavior, it changes people.
What if, without judgement, we asked more often and more genuinely, “How are you doing?” What if for every day that we felt well, we reached out to someone else we knew was suffering and used our positive energy and hopeful attitude to pick them up?
In that world we could find peace, and we could make peace. What price are you willing to pay for peace? Are you willing to hug the bear?