Friday, July 31, 2015

The Trouble with Silver Lining

So many times I’ve read blog posts that share a problem faced, a lesson learned and a conclusion that the difficulty was worth it. This formula gets pounded into our subconscious until we start to think that it must be super-imposed on every real-life situation. Every struggle must have a lesson, a reason, a purpose. Others expect you to say, “It’s tough, but I’m actually fine because of A, B and C.” Well-intentioned friends may even try to do the legwork for you, suggesting all the possible benefits to your broken heart.

For someone facing loss, an over-emphasis on silver lining may actually cause more harm than good. By its nature, loss is a subtraction. It is a black hole, dividing by zero. It leaves a gaping hollowness. To ask someone who has lost their job, their father or their health what they’ve gained from that experience is to overlook what loss truly is.

When I was diagnosed with my disease, 7 years ago now, I felt obligated to construct my story in a way that my listeners would expect. A cherry-on-top ending, if you will. A friend even constructed one for me. She prayed for me saying, “God, thank you for giving Sharon this disease so that you could teach her valuable lessons.” I wanted to scream, “You don’t understand! This isn’t fair. This isn’t a gift.” But I stayed silent.

I know that we can learn about life through the challenges we face, but I think it is dangerous to equate what is gained with what is lost. Loss is legitimate, and sufferers deserve to grieve and to mourn at their own pace. Glossing over the hurt, the hollowness, may lead to stunted healing. Acknowledging another’s tragedy may comfort her more than pointing out the positives.


  1. I know I can't compete with the eloquence in which you wrote, but I can affirm and applaud. There has been no greater flame to burn my already charred and smoldering spirit than the words, "this is all for the greater good". I wanted to scream, (and I believe I did argue) that there was nothing in me that would say, "yes, God, do that to me so that this other good for someone else might happen." The only response was that someday I would, which left me in a state of constant condemnation for not being able to seek suffering "for the greater good". The verse about God having ordained my days before I was formed (Psalm 139:16) left me looking at a sadistic god and wondering how I was going to walk away with my faith still beneath me. To live with PTSD is to walk a tightrope of faith above a chasm of snakes on a daily basis. One cannot soothe the trembling feet for such a journey with Romans 8:28 psychology and think that "all things will work together for good" will coax my feet upon the rope. However, I know "I AM" and He has met me in ways the unsuffering cannot know. I have asked not man, but God Himself, to explain His ordaining hand and He has made me understand, not with promises to produce a rainbow, but with one constant reply: "I love you". There is a place, beyond the here and now, and yet in the center of the here and now that transcends the suffering. It is the eye of the storm. I used to be appalled at the sight of Christ on the cross and turned away because it made God appear evil. How could an all powerful God choose such a heinous means to save us? He could have ordained a much less suffering means, remember, He is all powerful?! But when I rise to walk the tightrope through my day, I see the face of the evil that scarred my own life in that blood soaked face of my Christ crucified. Any less arduous a means would mock my hurt and cast sinister hues upon the pain that some try to label the "greater good". I can look into the eyes of my Savior now, and not look away, because there is the eye of the storm. It is there that I hear His love and find strength to venture out upon the tightrope. Here in the eye of the storm, evil is evil, pain is pain, and there is no greater good than to hear Christ crucified say my name. He alone can ask me to know pain and He alone can lead me to say there is a reason to hope.

  2. What a great testimony, Janet! I just finished reading Elizabeth Elliot’s book A Path Through Suffering. She, too, makes a case for taking ALL our pain and suffering to the cross of Jesus Christ. It was there that the innocent died for the guilty. It was the most excruciating death imaginable and to think that the JUST was willing to die a death like that for the UNJUST! Suffering and pain in this life is a way to share in the suffering of our Savior. Not ever easy, but the cross puts our pain in proper perspective.