The Meaning Of Suffering

The Meaning Of Suffering

by Linda-Ann Stewart
Snowbowl in Flagstaff, AZ
I know that some people and religious systems believe that we grow through suffering. Buddhism says, “All of life is suffering.” Catholicism infers that pain is good for the soul. I’ve heard it said that anguish intensifies our appreciation of good when it occurs. It’s supposed to cause us to seek deeper meanings to life, to become better people and more compassionate of others.

But I’ve known a lot of suffering people who weren’t growing in any way. Some adult survivors of abuse have felt victimized all of their lives and never tried to heal their wounds. An acquaintance developed cancer and, even when she went into complete remission, used it as an excuse not to participate in life. I knew an accident victim who felt entitled to not have to take responsibility for herself. Many emotionally wounded people inflict pain on others as a way to get momentary release from it.

Many people who are abandoned, rejected, can’t pay the bills, have chronic health problems, or are emotionally hurting, descend into a cycle of anger, resentment or despair that’s difficult to climb out of. If we’re overwhelmed by events out of our control, it can cause us to use up our mental and emotional resources to deal with the immediate problem. We may feel that we can’t handle any more, snap at those dear to us, and can become self-involved and self-pitying.

Suffering isn’t the same as sadness. Grief is an appropriate response to the loss of something dear to us. But eventually, our mourning passes, reduces or diminishes. However, there are some people who wallow in sadness and don’t move beyond it.

So I don’t believe that suffering, in and of itself, causes people to grow. As with anything else, how it affects us depends on how we perceive it. We need to be willing to seek the meaning in it. Although we might not be able to control events, we do have complete control over the way we think about them. Sometimes pain pushes us to quit trying to control our environment and to give up control to the Universe. Instead of trying to make the outcome fit our picture, we release and let the Infinite manage our affairs.

Many times, our resisting letting go of something that has outlived its usefulness or not moving forward causes anguish. When we oppose growth, then we create a resistance with the Universe. The intent of the Universe is to expand. By not letting ourselves grow, we create pain and suffering. There is a saying in the fitness industry “no pain, no gain.” I disagree. If we’re having pain, then we’re probably resisting growth, or we could be trying to move forward too quickly. Just like the pain of an overworked muscle.

If we’re trying to push through something, it may be that other things are at work behind the scenes, and it’s not time for the goal to come through, as hard as it is to accept that. Don’t try to “white knuckle” it and force it to happen. That will only create more resistance and pressure. Visualize the desired outcome and ask for the next step to be revealed.

There are times when all we can do is endure a difficult period, wait for things to improve and find something good in the situation. I remember hearing someone say, “Every challenge brings a gift.” When we seek meaning and the benefit from the circumstances, we will find them. Usually, there’s some message for us that we can absorb and use as a building block.

Many years ago, I had a friend who decided to erase the old idea that we only learn from problems. She set her intention to learn her lessons with joy instead of suffering and it worked for her. Recently, I’ve been following her example and working on letting things flow easily and harmoniously. As a result, several small miracles have occurred.

The Universe didn’t create a world full of suffering. Anguish is our response to a situation that doesn’t fit our view of how things should be. Suffering, in itself, doesn’t cause us to grow. We need to find the meaning in it, seek the lesson, let go control, and ask for guidance. As a spiritual text says, “Seek and ye shall find.” When you change your perspective of the situation, then not only will you grow from it, but your experience of it lightens.


I release the old idea that suffering is good for the soul. I let go of my preconceived notions about how a difficult situation should be and seek the meaning of it to help me grow and evolve into a more compassionate, wiser person. Keeping my mind focused on my desired outcome, I’m open to guidance about the next step. I’m willing to let go control of the result, and let the Universe manifest its Goodness. I set my intention to now learn my lessons with ease, harmony and joy.

Copyright 2008, 2015 Linda Ann Stewart
All Rights Reserved

As a speaker, personal and professional development coach and hypnotherapist, Linda-Ann Stewart empowers business and professional women who are stuck, immobilized or overwhelmed to get focused, prioritize and break through their inner barriers so they generate more business. If you’d like some help to reach your goals, email her at with “Complimentary Consultation” in the subject line.

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