Saturday, May 23, 2009

Placing a "higher value" on suffering

I have never forgotten her words, spoken softly but firmly as she taught our teleconference class in Christian life coaching. That was back in April of this year, the first month of my wonderful training. My classmates from Singapore, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and more places, and I, from Muskoka, Ontario, listened and engaged through the long distance phone lines and dutifully took our notes about the differences between regular and Christian life coaching. The main difference that stood out for me was encased in her words: "We place a higher value on suffering."

Those words were in some ways a truism for me, a "duh". Okay, so we get it. We Christians know all about suffering and its value, I guess, or are supposed to. But in this day and age of the prosperity gospel, the wonderings about whether we are doing something wrong if we have difficulties, we need to be told that. Especially in the world of life coaching. For that is where we are trained to help others to fulfill long dormant dreams, to live their best life, to be the person they have always wanted to be, to move forward in spite of the obstacles and negative mindsets that may have plagued them all their lives.

A.B. Simpson is quoted in Streams in the Desert (where else? This little book is jampacked with big truths about learning through suffering):

Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and the waves.

It's not just about enduring suffering and growing from it...it's about its necessity in the Christian life. And so its necessity in Christian life coaching.

Another aspect of this theme is given by Thomas Moore about depression in his book, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, and his chapter called "Gifts of Depression":

Maybe we could appreciate the role of depression in the economy of the soul more if we could only take away the negative connotations of the word. What if 'depression' were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time and for its own good reasons?

Depression grants the gift of experience not as a literal fact but as an attitude toward yourself. You get a sense of having lived through something, of being older and wiser. You know that life is suffering, and that knowledge makes a difference. You can't enjoy the bouncy, carefree innocence of youth any longer, a realization that entails both sadness because of the loss, and pleasure in a new feeling of self-acceptance and self-knowledge. This awareness of age has a halo of melancholy around it, but it also enjoys a measure of nobility.

It really is possible, at every level, to rejoice in our trials and our sadness. Not only can they produce great inner growth and push us forward to better achieve our goals and dreams, but they can even provide a satisfaction in themselves, a quiet knowledge of God's presence in them, and of our greater awareness of our own companionship, with Him, and with ourselves.

I am so deeply grateful that when I develop my Christian life coaching business I can incorporate all levels of experience, my own in my understanding, and all that my clients will be going through. I will not be coaching them to get out of their depression, or get past the difficulties in their lives, but I will have the privilege of being with them in the midst of them, encouraging them to place a high value on them, and receive all that is possible from and through them. This then can be part of the abundant living that we are promised.

1 comment:

Belinda said...

Meg, someone said to me this week, that sometimes God breaks us open in order to pour his Word into us. I also wrote down a quote a while ago, written by David Morrison, which said that suffering opens up in us a place for God to dwell, which would not have existed otherwise. How true this is, and it redeems the suffering, undoing the intent of the enemy to crush us through it. Thank you for the reminder that God works in the darkness as well as in the light.