Suffering With Purpose

By Debby DeBernardi

No matter how much I have tried to be immune to or prevent suffering in my life and in those I love, we suffer.  I have experienced, like many of you, the death of my grandparents, mother, child, friend, brother-in-law and could not blind myself to the suffering of those around me who also experienced this loss.  In my nursing days, I cared for and sat with many families suffering from terminal illnesses, including children who were a tremendous faith witness to me.  It doesn’t take much to notice suffering that is in and around us.

I sat yesterday with a friend of over 30 years and listened to the emotional and spiritual pain of having to decrease hours and layoff employees in a family business. My husband listens to and helps many business owners and retirees who come in to his office, suffering from the worry and confusion of the times. My heart aches for the children who are many times the silent victims of suffering. I worked on the Early Childhood Initiative with Tempe Community for Kids, and it was heart breaking.  Often we think of third world countries when it comes to children suffering from lack of food, poverty and abuse, but it’s here- in the US, and right here in Phoenix.  Suffering has so many ripple effects!

Presently, the new sufferings might be termed “transitions”.  The anxiety, the struggle and insecurity of what’s next!  Here is the time again of wrestling with deeper existential questions of who am I and where am I going?  Identity and purpose resurface.  How many of us have gone through, or are in a time of change, wondering or wandering?  I left a nursing teaching career to become a stay at home mom, returned to work in a church and later attended seminary only to be restructured out of my church of almost 30 years.  We all have our stories.

Yet, this “suffering” that seems to be a natural human reality in all of our lives, has a mysterious dimension that has surprised me.  Each suffering seems to have brought me new freedom and hope.  It has been a time of noticing both my darkness and an inner sense of goodness and growth.  It has lead me to discover, within my suffering, new passions, gifts, and meaning that has carried me into the future.  It has also given me a chance to enter God’s tender compassion for sinners, children, the lost, the least and misguided injustice; for I am able to identify with all of them.

In Jesus, I see the cross to be necessary for resurrection to happen. Suffering is necessary for my new life to emerge.  Jesus took my sin, pain, and suffering.  He is my model of a suffering servant.  I have come to know myself better and find my identity as God’s child regardless of where He places me in transition.  In transitions I have discovered new passion, gifts and limitations that I can surrender to God to reach out to others with compassion, what ever their need.  I am beginning to learn that in this surrendering and serving my family, faith family and community – God is shaping me.  As I allow myself to be shaped by God’s Spirit, rather than my egotistical desires and compulsions, it is becoming a way of life.  There is a way to surrender to God’s love and to experience peace in the midst of both chaos and uncertainty.  I am still learning and catching glimpses of what this resurrected life is like.

I invite many of you who also need to (re)discover who God created you to be, your passion and gifting and where you might find a place of service in Chrio to contact me.  The journey in and through transitions is worth it and you are not alone!

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