This is the first of a two-part series on how to consciously decrease suffering in our lives. Part one is about Emotional Suffering.
Some time ago I encountered a life situation that caused me great anguish. I remember spending many days and nights sobbing about my plight. There was nothing I could do to change it, and the tremendous feeling of powerlessness I felt caused profound suffering. I prayed and prayed to be delivered from this challenge, but was continually told, “No.”
One day, when I again fell prey to the normal pity party that I had established for myself, I heard the words loudly in my mind, “Anne, DO YOU STILL NEED TO SUFFER?” I stopped right in the middle of what had been a very satisfying sob, and was spiritually taught as I saw my situation for what it was; an opportunity for me to shift my awareness in a remarkable way.
I suddenly became conscious that in the very act of passionately resisting this hated circumstance, I was making myself suffer. Suffering was my choice, not God’s. I could fight against my circumstance, or see it for the teacher that it was, and allow it to be. Socrates taught:
“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.” (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/46908)
We generally resist change with all our might don’t we? Has it ever helped us have peace? Has it ever energized our ability to feel the Spirit? In this shifting of awareness, it became abundantly clear to me that the key to stopping suffering was to be welcoming towards and submit to the life situations that I was placed in. In other words, we can purposefully and willingly submit to God with all our struggles and disadvantages, and He’ll help us live above them in peace and joy.
There is such purpose in suffering. It helps us become the beautiful beings the Lord wants us to be. But when we have had enough; when we have suffered enough, we can choose to realize that these circumstances are not who we are. With great awareness, and God’s help, it is possible to transcend grief.
These spiritual setups are designed to help us turn to the Lord, soften our hearts, and receive His succor. It is possible to reach the same conclusions and awareness without the full extent of suffering. When we encounter emotional pain which seems to descend on us unannounced, we need to ask ourselves, DO I STILL NEED TO SUFFER?” Do I have to feel the pain, or can I graduate to a new level where I just allow “what is,” to be?
We have one opportunity after another to feel deep emotion or pain until we spiritually “GET IT!” If we don’t learn from it, we will go through yet another sequence of suffering. We learn either way!
How to Stop suffering in its Tracks
Take a deep breath and relax. It’s so much easier to let the sweetness of the spirit distill upon our soul when we lose the tension in our body. This puts us in a position to open up and ALLOW whatever needs to come, to be a welcomed part of our life.
- Observe Your Emotions.
Are you “so happy to be sad?” Isn’t it strange that we often derive a peculiar pleasure in being unhappy? When we change our perspective, by becoming the observer of our emotion, we can often see how needless the suffering is and it puts us in a position to be transformed.
By “witnessing” our own behavior and emotions, we can initiate conscious change. We can begin to see that it is actually our thoughts about our suffering that make us suffer. C.S. Lewis spoke of this very thing when he said:
“Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection; the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, pt. 1, 1961).
When we are hurt or angered by someone, it is common to replay the insensitive words or actions over and over in our minds, recreating the pain. We often go one step further and moan about it to others, which greatly reinforces the “poor me,” mindset. With awareness, this can be avoided.
Think about your life. Observe in yourself negative feelings you may have about some circumstance you are plagued with. (You may not like what someone said, what is required of you, or you may not like a choice someone has made). Observe how it makes you feel.
- Be Humble
Humility puts us in-line with Deity. It pulls the rug out from under the
“natural man” (the ego-mind). It’s not possible to sustain this “natural man,” when we are humble. Neal A. Maxwell stated:
“Spiritual submissiveness is so much more than bended knee or bowed head. Alas, insofar as we ‘mind the things of the flesh’ (Rom. 8:5), we simply cannot have the ‘mind of Christ… Yielding one’s heart to God signals the last stage in our spiritual development. Only then are we beginning to be fully useful to God!” (Neal A. Maxwell – April 1985 General Conference Sunday Afternoon Session – “Willing to Submit”)
This submission is the “face” of humility. We need it to open up the channels of awareness. Are we willing to submit to anything that the Lord sees fit to allow us to experience, even if we have repeatedly asked to be released from the trial?
- Be Extraordinarily Grateful!
When we are thankful, adversity simply loses its sting. The Lord has asked us to give Him thanks in everything. (D & C 78:19)
When we give God thanks, no matter our feelings, He will give us Joy, no matter our situation! Gratitude always taps into a spiritual energy that propels us upwards.
We must be humble and grateful for ALL things that the Lord sees fit to inflict upon us. (Mosiah 3:19) When we learn to accept whatever comes into our path, even though we don’t want it, it will bear beautiful fruit. If we find ourselves battling and opposing our life with feelings like, “This can’t happen!” “I can’t take this anymore!” “ I don’t want this!” or “I won’t do it!” know that this will only stunt our spiritual progress, and cause anguish of soul!
Does Suffering Still Serve You?
If you don’t resonate with this concept, consider that maybe you are not ready to stop suffering! What is the pay-off for your pain? What purpose does it serve?
If you are ready, however to stop suffering, you just need to accept and allow what has come into your life, then transmute and transcend it. The Lord gives us opportunity after opportunity to learn these lessons. If we don’t learn that we don’t need to suffer, then we obviously DO need to suffer! By “buying in” to the lure of suffering, we force ourselves down a painful road.
When we awaken to the fact that it is not the actual situation that causes us grief, but our interpretation of it, we can focus on positive realities and pray for the Lord’s grace to help us rise. We will be given many opportunities to suffer until we get it.
Do you still need to suffer? Only you can decide.
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