Every single person is uniquely talented in some way. We live in a world filled with an incredible diversity of skills, abilities, and perspectives. And together with this amazing range, every person you know has (at least) two things in common: 

  1. We all experience challenges.
  2. We all love to complain about them.

Now before you complain about this assessment, think about it. While some of us are more vocal than others, human beings seem hardwired to express their frustration, from the crib to the grave. Complaining allows us to identify whatever is bothering us and release some of the pressure (which is not in and of itself a bad thing). Unfortunately, it can also indulge our darker impulses. We build ourselves up and put others down. We use our suffering to excuse and justify our own bad behavior. And we absolve ourselves of any agency or responsibility. (I would do something if only I wasn’t married to that person, working for that boss, or dealing with this financial crisis).

Surely, there must be a better way for us to turn our challenges to good use.

The Struggle is Real

Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge the pain and challenges you are currently experiencing. We live in a world where suffering is guaranteed, and have no desire to diminish your very real circumstances.

And yet. Our relationship to suffering offers more that we are currently experiencing.

Unless you’re the consummate pessimist, you already know this to be true. Certain struggles have clear benefits if we’re paying attention. Sweating it out at the gym leads to a better physique. Studying produces increased knowledge. Getting lost motivates us to find our way back home.

It’s in these moments that our challenges transform into something else entirely. As neurologist and psychologist Viktor Frankl put it, “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” 

If our pain had no redemptive quality, life would be unfathomably miserable. And sadly, we often view our past or present circumstances through this lens. But when we explore what else might be available through our suffering, we find more than meaning. We discover the potential for joy.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

5 Meaningful Sources of Joy Available Through Suffering

So if we consider our challenges as potential sources of joy, what can we expect to experience in, through, and beyond the pain?

  1. The joy that comes through GROWTH. Look for ways to get better through this experience. Take pleasure in the problem solving, resilience, creativity, and strength you can develop along the way.
  2. The joy that comes through PURPOSE. Pain clarifies what we want – and what we don’t want. Notice what goals (vocational, relational, spiritual) are worth the suffering, and which one’s aren’t. 
  3. The joy that comes through RELATIONSHIP. Navigating challenges can forge strong bonds in teams, marriages, and friendships. Commit to facing these hurdles together, and celebrate the deeper connections that follow.
  4. The joy that comes through EMPATHY. Our struggles give us compassion for those around us. Survivors of all kinds have gone on to serve and love others in similar situations, providing unique understanding and hope.
  5. The joy that comes through GRATITUDE. When pain ends, celebration begins! We are especially grateful for health, healing, and restoration. And even when our suffering continues, we can still find sources of gratitude to sustain us along the way.

What will you decide to do when pain inevitably comes your way? Notice what your first instinct is. And then ask yourself: Where is the opportunity for joy?

If you’re motivated to experience the joy that comes out of doing hard things, Unravel has groups and courses specifically designed for you. Start your journey today.