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Alive, Survive, Strive and Thrive: The Journey of Suffering

K'dee Elsen
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K'dee Elsen

Clinical Psychologist, Co-Host of “The Brain People Podcast”

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  • August 16, 2020
    6:30 AM
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Our presentation is entitled alive survive strive and drive the journey of suffering you can turn on the news or perhaps take a look outside your own window and you'll see how we are suffering as a church as a nation as a world we see with the covert 1000 pandemic we see racism civil unrest and the long list continues or perhaps you may say I don't have to look very far I can look within my own home or even within myself my own heart can see that I myself am struggling whether physically with a chronic illness or mentally with depression anxiety financially socially spiritually and again the long list continues the question is how do I cope with this suffering how do we cope with the suffering do we just try to stay alive or survive get through why or what if we could strive and even thrive that is our goal is it even possible to thrive on a journey of suffering we'll be discussing some skills of how to cope with suffering and most importantly unravel the key to thriving. And so my name again is Dr Katie Elson and it is a joy to share this because again it is so relevant to what we're going through again as collectively as individuals as well as individual the in our own lives and so I'm just going to quickly talk about the shared experience of pain so pain is inevitable and I already alluded to some of these we see that collectively we're suffering at a global and societal level we see protests riots looting racism the quarantine and the isolation all the facts that that has brought about in the physical health aspect of the pandemic we see on the family level divorce the mystic violence which the rates have gone up dramatically with this coronavirus broken families and these are just to name a few at the church levels well even within the church we see broken churches or disconnect from the community individually we see individual struggling with physical illness chronic serious and terminal illness as well I work with the palette of care populations I see this day in day out and here are just a few of the many diagnoses that cause an ongoing suffering. My Alger arthritis cancer we know that the prevalence rates of these things are so high these days people are struggling physically and even with Kovac it's not just the fear and the panic that even our loved ones dying and dying a very inhumane way mentally we are struggling one in 4 within a minute while one in 5 in America and the one in 4 in other parts of the of the country and of the world I'm struggling with a mental illness depression anxiety trauma suicidal thoughts and just to name a few spiritually as well struggling. And so with this struggle with this suffering how do we cope and I want to quickly review how we typically cope so kind of to 1st address how we cope and how we should be coping instead so how do we cope I'll be using the analogy of sailing in my faith and just to kind of make it more present and a political to us and so for the 1st step again this journey of suffering a lot of us are barely just a life so you're alive you're breathing you have a pulse but you have no hope of joy a meaning or even drives to want more or to change in your life you know and no one starts this way I want to clarify that no wonder starts this way often it's because of the struggles in life and after suffering for a while that perhaps you get used to that it becomes a routine and in some ways a way of life again just to live going through the motions and so this was a analogy of a boat for instance perhaps you were in the boat and you've had a lot of waves and storms and you tried fighting it but you just kind of given up so now you're just kind of floating in the middle of the ocean and maybe a storm comes we hide in the cabin wait for it to pass and it actually seems a little bit more pleasant because your don't feel like you have to struggle or fight the storm but also you're not going anywhere you're stuck you're trapped in the middle of the ocean and there's no progress in my life some of us when we struggle with suffering we just are a life. Others are still barely surviving so maybe you know there are still struggles but now you have a bit more effort in and wanting to address that not completely but just a little bit more energy a little bit more effort but not enough to actually feel like you're striving or thriving in my life and so again going back to the boat illustration this might look like you know you're tired of just sitting in the middle of the ocean so you start to steer a bit or maybe put up the sails but still not that much effort and so if you're still without direction but then shrive becomes And again there are struggles but you're beginning to experience more hope you begin to think that what if life could be different what if I didn't have to struggle all the time and you realize maybe you have a little bit more control of your life than you recognize and so you begin to make some changes again going back to the boat perhaps to decide to get a new boat because the boat was causing the difficulty or maybe you and rolled in a class of learning how to better sail you're making some efforts but still still kind of struggling and again throughout all these illustrations and examples asking the question which one's me and then there's the right thing you guessed it they still struggle so you notice that no matter what step to your end there are will always be struggles. But now this time with thriving there is also hope as it was was striving but there's something almost strange and odd about your reaction it's almost as if the struggles don't bother you so much and in some ways maybe you even welcomed them that sounds a little odd right so to give again and again an example they received got the new equipment or maybe you took a lesson and. Now not only you know new lesson and. And new boat perhaps but you also have a different attitude you no longer see the waves as challenges you see them as as an inventor as something that you can conquer and your perspective again changes and even in some ways maybe the calmness of the ocean becomes almost something that you you don't enjoy because you want to grow and challenge yourself and so is this you right and this is what we want to strive for we want to not just be alive we don't just want to be. Surviving we may start making efforts to strive and we alternately want to thrive so the question is how can I drive and subtitled making meaning in suffering which sounds again ott. So the 1st step is acceptance and there's kind of sub steps to all of this but the 1st step of thriving during suffering is acceptance so mind shift most of us think that life and the pursuit of life is happiness we want to attain happiness the happiness is very fleeting and not only is it Leavey but it's almost impossible because of the fact that we live in a very broken and difficult world and so not only do we strive for happiness but we often try to avoid suffering but what's interesting is what we avoid and we teach us often in therapy is what we often avoid gross So for example if you avoid the weeds what happens they grow and so we shouldn't be avoiding suffering is there a different way in which we should approach suffering instead of we need to accept the pain and the suffering we have to accept it because pain is inevitable so Dr Victor Frankl he's a psycho he was a psychiatrist and I'll give you the 1st part of this quote because I'll give you the 2nd part later but he says to live is to suffer and just to give a little bit more information about Dr Victor Frankl he wrote a book made man search for meaning and he was a survivor of the concentration camps and so he learned how well 1st he learned the 1st part to live is to suffer and so again Pain is inevitable and as we understand that my Except that then our approach to suffering will start to change the next point is Don't compare your sufferings we hear this all the time I hear this you know in palate of care when a patients going through something and either they'll exaggerate their own say mine's the worst or sometimes even diminish I know somebody is going through something worse. But don't compare some friends Dr Victor Frankl gives an analogy that man suffering is similar to the behavior of. A certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber it will fill the chamber completely and even no matter how big the chain ember dust suffering comes completely fills the human person and their mind no matter whether the suffering is great or little so suffering cannot be comparable and that's really important because that means you're accepting that no matter what it is it's not it's not greater than someone else's It's not less than someone else's It's your suffering and that's Ok so and furthermore comparing either invalidates your suffering which avoids your suffering again or at exaggerates which often leads to pity and isolation nobody can understand what I'm going through but acceptance leads to interaction and connection with others. This last one I love this point except I love Lego The we are not in control of circumstances so one might say we're not in control isn't that saying that. That you know kind of getting licensed to us not coping not taking control of our lives there's a difference here so Dr Victor Frankl says this he says when we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves you notice I'm quoting him a lot because he talks a lot about suffering and how to deal with suffering so he says when we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenge to change ourselves this is also a key concept in cognitive behavioral therapy that when we accept the idea that we cannot control people situations circumstances we recognize that we ourselves have a lot more control than what we recognize So we are challenge to change ourselves when I'm going through suffering and I say why do I you know why did I lose my job or why did my spouse do this to me we are challenged to reflect inwardly and see that what we can control and how we can change ourselves in response to that suffering so to give an example if you can't change what your father to tear we often talk about that in therapy of your past and how your past impacts your current present but you can accept it by forgiving and then making it a part of your story of growth and victory you can't change that you have cancer but you can accept it and ask yourself what meaning can I make of this I can't control the coronavirus no one can but you can accept that it's been difficult and you can ask ways in which that you have control to make it better my past my current sufferings don't define who I am they're part of my journey perhaps it's Apter in my book but my book is still being written. The 2nd step is finding and making meaning of suffering so here you see the last part of the quote that I shared earlier to live is to suffer so if suffering is inevitable to survive or to thrive is to find some meaning in that suffering and so we can see examples of Dr Victor Frankl of Nick going to butcher his name kick Bethany Hamilton Joni Eareckson Tada these are examples of individuals who endured extreme suffering and yet they became victorious and so Bush can't he was born without limbs and he is a motivational speaker and he provides he had used his experience to benefit himself and others Bethany Hamilton she was the one who had her arms and off by by a shark she didn't say Ok whoa is me we can start there right we need a moment of woe is me but then she said how can I utilize the suffering make meaning of it and contribute to others and there we see also Joe Most people don't know that the Book of Job in the Bible was the 1st book written and that tells me a lot about God but God knew that we would struggle with suffering and he wanted to provide a book that addressed why the suffering and how to cope and job stayed faithful and he received many blessings as a result of that choice choice is huge we have a choice to. To how we respond to our suffering and there's a quote that says between the stimulus and response right between a vent and how we respond to it there is a space in that space is our power to choose our response we have a choice the same way Dr Victor Frankl and others had a choice so his wife his daughter and I believe his parents as well they all died in the. Concentration Camps and yet he chose to live a life of meaning and to give back to others and so no matter the the most horrible of circumstances you can choose how to respond and it's not a grand weaning or purpose of life after we think that making meaning means I need to do something great as these people but what is often encourage what we courage in therapy is to to ask what is your purpose day by day and maybe even moment by moment you may say Ok What's one thing I can do today what's one thing that I can do in this moment you go to your work what's one thing and you notice that by having those calls by having that meaning and purpose life no longer becomes I'm breathing and Colson I'm barely alive or surviving my suffering but I'm actually thriving and realize that character and it's important to accept suffering in the community because it builds character this is a Biblical concept that we see it has counted all joy when you fall into various trials why because it produces character you grow as a person and again peen is inevitable but those who are strongest and most successful in life are those who allow for it to grow them and to motivate them and then also make it other centered often with suffering me we say Well as we will with me but focus on others and when you for this on others here it will to then not only bless yourself turn that suffering into a blessing for yourself but also to others and so I want to quickly close with the key to thriving also is by someone else who made the ultimate meaning of suffering and that is Jesus Christ. It says in Isaiah 53 that by His stripes we are healed we often as a as a Christian community emphasize his death and resurrection but then you ask why did you think come as a baby why did he live 33 and a half years and that's because the Bible tells us that he came because he had to suffer he chose to chose to come as a baby to suffer in all points as we have and so there are some references here and I love Hebrews 415 because it says we do not have a High Priest Jesus who cannot sympathize meaning we may deal he can sympathize he's suffered in all ways so that we can have somebody who can give us comfort during that suffering I love this this is a definition of suffering it says to submit to or be forced to endure to feel kingly Or to put up with to undergo to experience and what Jesus did is just in say I'm going to be a far away God that sees your suffering but he says I want to come down in the flash and be able to submit to to undergo to experience the suffering as well and you notice that he suffered in many ways he was alone abandoned betrayed Hugh felt for saken by God And so we have somebody that can empathize with every single suffering that's number one number 2 I have a personal God that is present with me in every suffering isn't that beautiful and then 3 he suffered so that I do not have to carry this cross of suffering alone and not only empathizes with r.p. but he also has the power to heal r.p. says that he's moved with compassion compassion means to suffer with so as he understands of the suffering is extends to us his healing lastly pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Some of you may have heard this before that pain is kind of the physiological component the physical component of what we suffer right pain is inevitable something happens and we feel that pain but suffering ought to be believed to be optional because suffering includes the faults and emotional experiences the interpretations that we have so for example if I say this is the worst thing possible that has ever happened to me that phrase in itself is what leads pain to becoming suffering but I want to say here that suffering is optional because we know we all enjoy our people but that Christ himself he endured the suffering so that we don't have to and so how do you thrive in life is you thrive bike setting that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional How do you make meaning of that and how to find the most meaning out of that by looking to Jesus and seeing that he suffered on your behalf and I know we have some questions that we want to end with so Dr Amir is thank you so much for such an insightful presentation. We have a couple of questions so. First question is. What to do with such a painful past how can I overcome that. Great question so a lot of people have this confusion of do I have to come dig up my past in order to to have healing and I always say you know if your past is buried and you've moved on from it leave it there but if your past becomes your present in the sense that you're reliving it then you do need to addressed your past how do you do that it's not something that I can give a bullet point less but I would encourage you to seek further help whether it's a mental health professional a community but often it's going back to your past seeing what exact what was hurtful what as a result of the thoughts the beliefs that you have about yourself and then kind of challenging those in a way that brings healing. I know it is that aside good sleep my thoughts start racing What can I do to relax and calm down Yes So one thing the deep breathing so deep dive for mad a grieving is one that we often recommend as just as a way to get your body in your my and more relaxed so kind of a precursor to even working on your thoughts of just doing a couple deep breaths using your diaphragm and what you can do with that is also if you're not sure exactly how to do it you can just Google die for medic breathing or deep breathing there's You Tube videos there's a little kind of blurbs of what you can do and then often kind of ask yourself what's the root of those racing thoughts if it's because you're worried about the next day I have to recommend to my patients just to schedule a worry time before their bet so an hour before bed write down all the things that you're worried about your racing thoughts and then once you're in bed then if those thoughts pop up again you see already dealt with them already kind of found a solution for them and then that you're able to kind of calm your mind to deep breathing plus scheduling some worry time before you actually get into that. And I have one last question how can I forgive somebody that hurt me so much. Yeah that's a that's a good question and something I think many of us struggle with and I think many of us don't talk about that struggle 1st off I think just better understanding what forgiveness and so many people don't forgive because they think that forgiveness is condoning what that person did to you it's not that if whether ever they did to you often like for instance you know an abuser or somebody who hurts you in a certain way they say you know I don't want to forgive because that's saying it was Ok it's not Ok what they did it's not Ok how it hurts you it's and recognizing that that is not forgiveness and so forgiveness is actually letting go in a way that spend official to you and so I would say you know bring that before the Lord and courage then encourage you to. Say God like help me because I can't do this on my own. This media was brought to you by audio force a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse if you would like to listen to more sermon pleaded visit w w w dot audio Verse dot org.

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