Scarlet Letter

For whatever reason, I have wanted to write about the topic of suffering since the beginning of the year. I realize it’s a weird topic to want to write about and quite honestly, I cannot personally attest to a lot of suffering in my life. In general and by the majority of the world’s standards, suffering basically doesn’t exist in my life.

For whatever reason, I’ve been trying to draw out the words of why suffering is important in our lives despite a culture that says we should avoid it at all costs and that it most certainly does not serve a purpose. In fact, our culture goes so far as to say that those who are truly suffering don’t really have a reason to live. After months of pondering, during the most pondering of seasons that is pregnancy, the thoughts flowed to me the other morning about how pregnancy has revealed to me most of any other life situation, the value and the beauty of suffering. Yes, there is beauty in suffering if only I would take the time to see it that way.

Suffering can be beautiful when united to our ultimate purpose, achieving sainthood. At 38 weeks pregnant, I can attest to the amazingly wonderful and yet terrible reality of pregnancy and bringing a new life into this world. In fact, anyone who has walked through pregnancy can attest that 38 weeks of pregnancy leaves you pretty raw. I feel like Hester Prynne wearing my scarlet letter – there is no hiding my current state of being largely pregnant with swollen feet and uncomfortable everything; no matter where I go, there will be a glance, comment or conjecture about this belly. Emotionally, this starts to take a toll on you and what is probably the most difficult for me is the inability to plan and control when this baby will arrive. Is it today, tomorrow, or in five minutes that I will go into labor?

However, when I take a step back and I see how my three pregnancies have chiseled away at my flaws, my selfishness and my ego to help reveal a little more of the person God wants me to be, I know that this suffering is necessary and yes, it is beautiful. I keep trying to call to mind how wasteful I’m being of this time if I don’t unite it to Christ’s suffering on the cross in an effort to be a tiny bit more like him. I can use this time to offer up my suffering for someone else who might need a prayer rather than just moan and groan about it. Unfortunately, I’m not saying I’m doing real well with this, I’m just stating I really should be doing this.

In a culture that tells us productivity, usefulness and near perfection is your worth, any suffering, including being 38 weeks pregnant can feel pretty worthless in the eyes of the world, but if we look through the lens of Christianity, it turns this theory on its head and reveals a much greater truth – suffering can lead us closer to Jesus and that is the reason we are here.