Suffering for a Greater Purpose
When I was a teen, I participated in a 30-hour famine. Let me be quite clear -- I love food! I love the tastes, the smells, the textures, the feeling of fullness. And I despise being hungry. I loathe the feeling of emptiness, the stomach cramps, the panic that arises when I don't have immediate access to food. First-world problems, y'all.
But I did it. 30 hours without food. And it kinda sucked. Even though I ate immediately preceding the famine, I was hungry the minute the famine started. My body wasn't hungry -- but my mind was. It was a very long 30 hours.
As the hours moved along, we learned quite a lot about people in the world who were truly starving. The dirt cakes they ate to fool their tummies into thinking it was getting food. The bloated stomachs of starving children. The deaths of millions to starvation. We also learned of how many children would be fed by the money we had raised for our 30-hour-famine. The families that wouldn't have to bury loved ones. The cows, chickens, and lambs that families could rely upon for food.
And a funny thing happened. The more I learned about the people whose real suffering would be lessened by my suffering, the less my own "suffering" hurt. Suffering is the most devastating when we don't see an end, and when we don't see a reason for it. When we can see either a possibility of an end or a greater purpose, suffering becomes a shared experience. It connects us and moves us to do what we can to alleviate the suffering of others. And in that, it becomes bearable and meaningful.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Ephesians 3:13
I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.