The worse thing about SNAC Women? That you can’t attend all the afternoon electives! The worse thing about SNAC Women? That you can’t attend all the afternoon electives!
This year, we had 4 different electives to choose from and I was part of a fantastic workshop that heard from 4 different women who have persevered through suffering. These women have gone through a lot - experiencing depression, anorexia, severe anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, infertility, still birth, caring for a child with depression, caring for a disabled child and grief. Yet in their suffering, they testified to the goodness and greatness of our God. Here are some things we learnt from them…
For those who are in the midst of suffering and need help to persevere, the key theme that kept ringing was to keep meeting with God’s people as you experience suffering. Fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters is a great gift that God gives to us. One of our speakers said “Often when you’re suffering the temptation is to stay away from church family but we need each other more in suffering! God uses his word on the lips of our brothers and sisters to help us persevere and so we need to not give up meeting with one another.” Another speaker said “During that time (of suffering and grief) a number of new people visited the church and they were drawn to Christ as a result. I strongly encourage you to resist the urge to stay away from church when you are suffering – both for your own good and for the good of the church.”
Other encouragements were to listen to Christian songs and let the truths of scripture play through your mind and get professional help. Some Bible passages that these women found helpful included: Romans 8, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 46:1-3, Psalm 46:10, Psalm 73:25-26, Phillipians 4:4-7, Habbakuk 3:17-19, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:2, 1 Peter 5:7, Proverbs 3:5-6 and Joshua 1:9.
In addition, these women pointed us to the wonderful promise of the new creation where there will be no more pain, suffering or tears. Come Lord Jesus! Come!
For those who want to prepare for suffering, the encouragement was to take the time now to cultivate your personal knowledge of God. Be grounded in the scriptures and the knowledge that God is sovereign and good. Suffering will come so don’t be surprised when it does. Be prepared.
For those who are seeking to love people who are suffering, a variety of helpful suggestions were raised:
• Don’t avoid people who are suffering.
• Pray for them and keep praying for them.
• Take an interest in them and their situation - ask how they’re going, even if it feels awkward.
• Encourage them to get help.
• Love them. It’s ok to say that you don’t know what to say, but don’t be dismissive.
• Offhand comments can be really unhelpful! Eg, “It will happen” with regards to pregnancy, “God doesn’t give you more than you can bear”, “Oh yes I know…” (You probably don’t, unless you have been in the same situation as them.)
• Listen carefully and speak carefully. Don’t oversimplify the sufferer’s situation or provide a simple ‘fix’ for what they are dealing with.
To enable you to do any or all of these things, in loving others, one speaker made the passionate plea to make sure we make time to care for others.
Hope this has been helpful for you!