You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.
~Henri Frederic Amiel
I’m continuing to work my way through Tim Keller’s new book “Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering.” His approach is so practical: First examining the philosophy behind pain and suffering, then later in the book dealing with the reality of pain and suffering. I’ve read several books that attempt to explain theodicy, yet this is the first book that I find myself soaking into the fiber of my heart. I believe it will be as important to me as C.S. Lewis’ books are.
The quote above caught my eye. Not because it speaks of making use of suffering, but because it equates that act with the art of living. Of really living.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’m not really living a life well-lived. There are reasons for this….for I am STILL trying to figure out who I am as a Christian, as an ex-wife, as a single mom and not as a minister’s wife. I wonder if I ever really will find my footing.
My Amiel hits upon something in this quote: the art of living. That spacious place within we move and dance and have our being here upon the earth, amongst friends, co-workers, neighbors, families. It’s being creative. It’s parenting well. And most importantly, it’s loving God well.
But how does suffering fit in? It seems suffering would stifle these things-throw a wet blanket over them. Instead, what Amiel suggests is just the opposite.
We don’t waste our suffering when we allow God to use it to mold us into the being He had in mind from the beginning. We don’t waste our suffering when we allow God to use it to minister to the deepest needs of another’s soul. We don’t waste our suffering when we walk through it by God’s grace and come out on the other side–even more hyper aware of our need and dependence upon Him and upon HIs mercy and His grace.
The art of living. I’m not an artist, but I always wished I could be creative in that manner. But through the strokes of God’s hands, He can create the art that is my life and the art that is your life, as we refuse to waste the suffering we endure. And endure we must. Like Paul. Like Peter. And most importantly, like our Savior, Jesus.
I don’t want to waste my suffering—for it to be all for naught. How tragic! That’s more tragic than the suffering itself!! God help me to not waste anything in my life for your glory, even though I fail so many times. Thank you for loving me through those failures. Thank you for seeing what I can not see in the midst of the suffering, because you alone can plainly see the art of living. Help each of us continually move toward that goal in order to give the glory to you. Amen. And Amen.