“I can’t believe I did that! Is this me?!,” exclaimed one of our workshop participants (we’ll call her Jayne) after sharing that she recently defended her ex-husband to her family. Evidently, Jayne’s family was giving her a rather hard time about her ex, and she responded by defending him in his absence. What surprised her was that she did not jump in on the slam-fest and give him a few good whacks of her own. Jayne added that for the year or two after her divorce, she would have readily pounced on any opportunity to criticize her ex. She was amazed that now she was doing just the opposite. It was as if she had an out-of-body experience and did not even recognize herself. Her excitement at this self-revelation was palpable.
Why was this? Why was Jayne in shock and awe over defending her ex? Why did she hardly recognize herself? Because she was not the same person she was at the time of her divorce. She had grown and evolved from the suffering that came with it. This is a clear example of the “good” that can come out of suffering. Jayne had grown in compassion, understanding, and (dare I say) even love, for her ex. All because she had suffered mightily from her divorce. The suffering changed her because she did not run from it. She embraced it and allowed it, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to transform her. She became more merciful toward her ex and had grown in wisdom, allowing her to better see the truth of her situation. In short, she became a better person.
Had she run from the pain and avoided the suffering, she would have become stuck in her own mud-pit of anger, self-pity and despair. Instead, she was transformed into a better person by the very thing that most people think would have ruined her. This is the benefit of suffering with a purpose. It is the same type of suffering that Christ did for us. When we allow our suffering to transform us and benefit others, we become like Christ. His suffering was not for nothing–it saved mankind. While our suffering probably won’t have as dramatic an effect, it can certainly help us and those we love, even those we struggle to love. The key is to lean into it. If you do, you will speed your recovery from divorce, grow in wisdom and compassion, and bless many lives.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps. – 1 Peter 2:21