The Best Way You Can Deal With Suffering

The Best Way You Can Deal With Suffering May 15, 2023

Therapists care
Credit: Anna Stills

The best way to deal with suffering is not a new question. For one, we know that suffering is an inescapable part of the human condition. I think it is helpful to think of suffering as hardship, and hardship manifests in nearly all our human interactions. It might be in relationships, your occupation, financial burdens, or countless other issues. And there is little consolation in knowing that suffering happens to all of us.

Walking Out

People thought they could walk away

There are many examples of people who have tried to walk away from hardship. In some instances, it may be necessary to walk away. This is especially true if you are concerned for your physical, emotional or psychological wellbeing.
Let’s imagine that a husband realizes marriage is not what he thought it would be. He might decide the best thing is for him to leave his wife. One day after work, he tells his wife that he is unhappy and names all the ways he believes
they should end their marriage. Perhaps this is a shock to her.  She admits they need to work on a few things, but is getting a divorce the only option? It’s a rough night for our imaginary couple. They argue, raise their voices, and she cries. He doesn’t want to hear it, so he leaves and checks in at a local motel for the night.

Divorce documents in a court. Separation and alimony.

The next morning, he calls his lawyer and sets divorce proceedings in motion.  It only takes a few months until the Court finishes its work and dissolves the couple’s once-anticipated union. The husband feels he has successfully handled the hardship problem of their unhappy marriage and has dealt with the source of his suffering. But now, he has to decide whether or not to start dating again. He reasons that he deserves to be happy, so why not jump right in?  

…Suffering is inevitable.

Then through a friend, he learns that his ex-wife is struggling emotionally. The divorce has taken a toll on her, and she’s fallen into dark depression and has is seeing a therapist. “Not my problem,” the husband remarks to his friend. Or maybe he has a completely different reaction to the news of his ex-wife’s suffering. Let’s say he feels bad for her and wonders if he should contact his ex-wife and try to help. No, it’s too soon, he reasons. Still, he feels guilty, so he tries to push the thoughts of responsibility away, but they keep returning. Suddenly, he has to deal with hardship again and starts to recognize that suffering is inevitable.

Religion, theologians, and philosophers

This fictional account is oversimplified. However, it shows how we all face hardship of one type or another, and that our reaction often creates further difficulties.  Religion, theologians, and philosophers have pondered the question of suffering for centuries. Below, I have provided a brief example of each.


Buddhism is reliant on the idea of suffering and finding relief. To help adherents understand, The Buddha offered The Four Noble Truths:

            1. Suffering is real
            2. The cause of suffering is desire and ignorance
            3. The end of suffering is either physical death or the transcendental state of nirvana
            4. The path to the end of suffering is a whole new series of concepts called The Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thought right speech right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.


One example of the philosophical study of suffering is the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche. He suggested that suffering is inescapable and that it is everywhere one turns. He also stated that suffering doesn’t have any real purpose. Instead, he proposed that how we face it and persevere through hardships is an exercise in character-building.

Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis wrote about pain and suffering. He said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1940/1996), 91. 

Christianity is has many categories, but they all try to understand suffering and offer compassion. 

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Christian denominations and independent churches in the World. Among them, there exists a wide variety of theories about suffering. Some teach that suffering results from the fall of man and  the general condition of sin. Others believe that personal sin causes suffering.  Christianity as a whole believes that God can relieve suffering through faith and prayer.

…it seems wise to come to a personal conclusion

Since pain, suffering, and hardship are inevitable, it seems wise to come to a personal conclusion. In my personal opinion, I don’t believe we immediately know God’s will in every situation. Neither do we know all the factors that caused a particular hardship. However, I do believe that God is good, loving, and kind. As a result, He wants me to be loving and kind, as well. Sometimes God performs a miracle, and sometimes He wants us to work through it. Sometimes He heals, but sometimes nothing seems to happen when we pray. 

The Counselor and the Client. Credit: Counseling Today, June 7, 2017

As a Pentecostal pastor, I try my best to be available to those who ask me to help them understand and work through hardship. It’s more important to listen than to talk, but when I speak, it should come from a heart of love and kindness. When I care and listen to those who suffer, their load becomes a little lighter. When someone asks me to pray for them, I respond immediately because their faith is working. All I can do is listen, love, and pray. The rest is up to God and the one in need.  Still, I have a firm belief that the prayer of faith heals the sick.

The Best Way You Can Deal With Suffering

Whoever you are, and whatever sort of hardship you presently face, the Bible offers this hopeful truth:  “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

About Ken Shelton
ABOUT KEN SHELTON I am the Director of GracePointe Guidance Ministries, a network of pastoral counselors and licensed therapists. In addition, I have served as a local church pastor for 35 years. I am an ordained bishop in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). I sit on the Council of Bishops for the Evangel. Association of Churches and Ministries (Roseville, MI). I am also a songwriter, recording artist, and author. Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a licensed therapist or psychologist. This article is for informational and inspirational purposes and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health therapy. You can read more about the author here. You can read more about the author here.
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