Helen Keller and the Apostle Paul on Suffering

They Knew It Was the Way to Growth in Life and Leadership
I want to imprint on you the thoughts of two very different people. The first is Helen Keller, the woman who through illness became blind, deaf and mute. Through a wonderful teacher Ann Sullivan, Keller overcame these disabilities and became an inspiration to the world. For more on Helen Keller, read this short biography. The second person is the Apostle Paul who endured suffering that was on a level virtually unimaginable. If you want to refresh your memory on what Paul endured to see churches planted in the Mediterranean world, read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.

Here are the thoughts from Helen Keller and the Apostle Paul. 

Here are Four Observations.

ONE:  They both spoke from experience, and we should remember this experience was deep, painful and long. 

TWO:  They both never stopped suffering. Helen Keller learned to transcend her limitations, but she never got rid of them. The Apostle Paul speaks of the "thorn in his flesh" which he begged God to remove, but was told that it would not be taken away (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

THREE:  They both had the right focus. They were not focused on the suffering. They were focused on what suffering produced in one's life. Go back and reread what they each said. In their own words, they celebrated what suffering did in them.

FOUR:  They both knew that suffering does not automatically have this result. It is what you do with and about your suffering. Suffering is either the context where you chose bitterness, withdraw and eventually death. Or it is the occasion when you chose life, faith, engagement and trust. When you respond with the latter, then suffering becomes the context where powerful, deep and beautiful things happen. The soul is strengthened, vision is clarified, values emerge that will sustain you, character is formed, hope is discovered . . . and above all - the transforming presence, work and LOVE of GOD is experienced.

Here are the Questions.

1.  What suffering are you currently experiencing?

2.  How are you responding to that suffering?

3.  What different response do you believe God is asking of you in light of what Helen Keller and Apostle Paul have taught you?

4.  Will you choose to have suffering become your teacher and trainer so your inner world will grow strong, healthy and beautiful?

5.  Who do you know, in your organization, your church, a small group, or even your family, who is going through a time of suffering? How can you help them reframe what God wants to do in their lives during this time? How can you encourage them to have a Growth Response to suffering?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

LCI - Helping You ReFrame Your View of Suffering and the Work God Can Do in Those Experiences