Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering – the Most Important Step

Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed by the negative turns in our lives, we become blind to the purpose they serve.

Every life is characterized by a series of events and circumstances. We might label some as ‘good’ or ‘positive’, while others might be labeled at ‘bad’ or ‘negative’.

Years ago I participated in a group exercise for a leadership team – each individual in the group made a timeline of all of the major events of our lives whether we consider them good or bad.

After we did this we were given small squares of construction paper. On each square we wrote some words or drew a picture that characterized that particular event in our lives. We were then given a large piece of paper and many colored squares. We then took our squares of life events, and, intermingling those with colorful squares, created a paper quilt. We were also asked to leave the last few rows of our quilt blank. After our quilt was done, we used our quilt to tell the rest of the group the story of our lives – the positive and negative things that happened.

I don’t want to just skip past the most significant part of this exercise. We ‘read’ our quilts to the rest of our group. We told them our story.

There was power in telling our stories out loud.

Some of the group had never fully shared their stories.
The key was this: As we told about the events or circumstances that we considered negative, we were asked to also share what we learned from each of those events, and how that affected the rest of our ‘story’.

Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by the negative turns in our lives that we are blinded to the purpose they serve.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl states

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”

Author Donald Miller explains it like this

“The process of redeeming your negative turns comes from Dr. Viktor Frankl, who believed one way a person gains the existential experience of meaning is by taking each bit of suffering they’ve experienced and finding a redemptive perspective toward it. His exact thought was this: Once we find a redemptive perspective on our suffering, it ceases to be suffering.”

Once you have looked at your story and taken steps to redeem your suffering, what’s next? How does this help one find their dream (again?)

Read more at The Next Step (in Attaching Meaning to Our Suffering)