I grew up in a home where conflict was avoided. It was better to maintain the status quo than make others uncomfortable.
I emerged from this upbringing craving deep, meaningful relationships. I longed for dialogue that did more than scratch the surface.
When I received my diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy—a disorder that causes damage to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord—my mom shared that she understood if I chose to keep it private. It was, as she put it, “a personal matter.” But, after two years of shouldering the burden of undiagnosed pain, I couldn’t carry it myself any longer.
In reading my Bible, God spoke to me through Romans 8:16-18:
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
This passage revealed three profound truths about suffering:
As followers of Christ, we will suffer. We are called to “take up our cross daily and follow Him” (Luke 9:23).
By sharing in Christ’s sufferings, we will be glorified in heaven—becoming mature and complete as we are conformed to the image of Jesus. Through the furnace of affliction, our character is refined and we are prepared for the high calling God has for us.
Suffering is universal. We all go through it, and it is meant to be shared.
The day I shared my diagnosis on my blog my inbox overflowed with condolences and words of encouragement.
“I know it can be debilitating.”
“I will keep you in my prayers.”
Others texted or sent cards. “I’d like to bring you a meal this weekend. Which day is best for you?” I found it easier to accept help from those who offered to meet a specific need (e.g. prepare a meal, drive my kids to their activities) versus those who asked, “How can I help?”
My husband, knowing talking about my symptoms often increased my anxiety, simply sat with me in my pain. When I felt anxious or afraid, he held me close. As I processed my diagnosis, his words and actions communicated three messages that all of us in pain need to hear:
I’ll always be here for you.
I know this is hard on you, and I want to help.
You are not a burden.
The ministry of presence is one of the greatest gifts we can provide to our loved ones who are hurting. Pastor Rick Warren says, “The deeper the pain, the fewer the words you use,” and there’s a lot of truth in this statement. Asking how I was doing often put me in an awkward situation—sandwiched between wanting to be honest while avoiding sounding like I was complaining—but sitting with me in my pain gave me space to talk about it if I wanted to and know either choice was okay.
One note I received shared a unique perspective. The woman wrote, “Your witness is even more powerful because of your illness. Jesus is allowing you to ‘drink from His cup’ and share in His sufferings. There is no higher call than that.”
She was right. I have been sharing the Good News on my blog with slow, steady growth for the past five years, but once I opened up about my struggle with pain my ministry began to explode. By praising God in the midst of my suffering and treasuring Christ above comfort and ease, my testimony gained credibility. Others comment that the Holy Spirit now shines in my writing with greater focus, clarity, and elegance. This is through no effort of my own but through the power of God, who meets me in my weakness and gives strength where my sufficiency runs out.
God has been speaking to me personally in my struggles and teaching me how to depend more on Him. He has shown me that it is through an awareness of our brokenness—not running away from it—that we begin to heal. And He has blessed me with a supportive community that has provided comfort, empathy, and connection that protects me from depression.
In Henri Nouwen’s book, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, he writes, “One very important way to befriend our sorrow is to take it out of its isolation, and share it with someone who can receive it.” When we process pain correctly—through prayer, community, and trusting in God’s timing—our story brings hope and healing. This is why it’s so important to share them.
Sharing our stories is not just about us, but connecting with others over shared experiences. The purpose isn’t to receive pity, but to encourage others on their journey and point them to the hope of Christ that sustains us through our trials.
Consider for a moment how our lives would be different if Jesus’ suffering were kept secret? If His story were never told? If He refrained from talking about what was difficult, uncomfortable, or not openly discussed in society?
Just as Jesus’ testimony set us free from sin and death, our stories set others free from hopelessness and despair. Through vulnerability with God and others, we develop meaningful relationships that form the foundation of our spiritual and emotional well-being. Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Holding it in robs us of peace, but sharing it brings healing, fulfills a purpose in someone else’s life, and brings glory and honor to God.
When we share our stories of pain and heartache, we can also lift one another up in prayer. We help carry each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). We are sharpened in the presence of community as we grow in compassion, appreciation for God’s blessings, and holiness as we fix our eyes on Jesus (Proverbs 27:17).
There is a communal nature of suffering.
We were not meant to walk through it alone. If your pain is too great to share your story publicly, consider telling it through journaling, to a close friend, or to a trusted counselor.
If you know someone who is struggling, give them space to grieve. Let them know you are keeping them in your prayers. Gift them with the ministry of presence if you can. Each of these ways spreads the love of Christ in a fallen world and builds up the Kingdom of God.
Jen Roland is a writer, speaker, health coach, and behavior change specialist with a passion for walking alongside others toward wholeness. She feels compelled to reach others for Christ, set them free from strongholds (e.g. anxiety, fear), and provide them with resources to grow. She does this through writing and coaching, where she helps others implement positive lifestyle practices (e.g. movement, mindfulness, prayer) and develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. Since her neuropathy diagnosis, Jen has been serving others with chronic pain and illness. She helps them find physical, emotional, and spiritual healing so they can improve their quality of life.
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