There I was… I sat in the cinema and watched The Magnificent Seven. I sat and watched in awe, but also in terror.
The glamorizing gunshots, explosions, and loud cries kept my eyes and brain glued to the screen; yet there was a part of me that was terrified.
Even though there was chaos, confusion, and agony that surrounded me in this moment, it fell silent and shattered my heart.
Before I continue, I would like to give some backstory into who I am. Currently, I am at the age of 20 years old. I was born and raised into a Christian household, so my beliefs and convictions align with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Bible.
Yes, most of which that I will be writing about, comes from a place of God in my heart and the experiences that I have faced with Him. But I hope you know that I am not here to preach at you about God, rather, I am here to share a little part of the larger story that He has written for me since the beginning of time. This story is of truth, hope, love, and redemption.
Ask yourself this question and be truthful about the answer. What has been the greatest challenge in life for you to overcome? Now, if you think that you haven’t had to overcome any plight, or if you think that your quarrel was compared to nothing, I would ask you to rethink your reasonings.
The great thing about this question, is that everyone will have a different answer. There is no right or wrong way to navigate this question. We all have different walks of life. This is what makes us unique. Some people are faced with moral dilemmas, some are faced with overcoming injuries, and others with pain and suffering. To each his own.
One man open fired in an auditorium full of human beings, killing 12 and injuring 60. This is not including those who had and still are suffering from various forms of mental illness.
My pain and suffering came in the form of internal stresses. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) and my Counselor, I met the criteria for PTSD and Delayed Response, which include depression and anxiety due to the events of that night.
Three months after the shooting, I was in shock. I was going from one thing to the next, without taking the time to stop and ponder what had happened that night. One day, as I was snowshoeing in the silent mountains of Colorado, I felt a boulder drop on me. Not a literal boulder, but an emotional one.
The images, sounds, screams, and smells from that night; It all came rushing through like a tidal wave. I felt guilt instantly and it spoke to me saying, “You got out alive yet there is a little girl who lost her life, and you stood in shock and did nothing to help.” This was every day when I awoke from bed and when I fell to sleep. I put on a façade of happiness when I went to school, but inside I was desperate and crying for help.
I then began to think to myself about how I could fix all these internal struggles. How is a 16-year-old supposed to deal and cope with such a trauma? My time as a child and life prior to the event told me to run to Jesus, but there was another part of me, the part of me that is now living this pain and suffering, that told me to run away. So I ran.
How can I run to a God who let such events happen? So, I began to run to worldly pleasures, thinking that they would bring me comfort and fulfillment, but I was naïve, lost, and wrong. This way of thinking and “healing”, ended up bringing me further down the rabbit hole of depression.
Growing up in the church, I always heard that suffering was valuable. It creates perseverance and reliance upon God. I truly believed this, until I experienced it for myself. The only time I would actually call upon God was when I wanted Him to deliver me from these challenges. I was too scared to face the reality of what I was dealing with. So I continued to run from my internal struggles and bottled them up. Eventually… I popped.
To see it in such a way that is positive, rather than negative. Not every session was great, but not every session was terrible. Progress was happening and change was enacting in my thoughts, but not in my heart. During these times, It was crazy for me to experience the phenomenon of my head and my heart feeling like they were a million miles apart.
My head would say one thing, but my heart would speak another. In my thoughts I knew the truths about God and pain and suffering, but my heart didn’t want to believe it. Depression dug down deep. Lies, anger, and bitterness towards life were tenants who rented out my heart and whose payment was in the form of hate.
I began to ask myself what I wanted to do. It seemed like no matter what I did, I would still feel empty inside. Nothing could fill this shattered, yet naïve heart. Thoughts of suicide began rushing into my head and at one point, I thought it was all I had left. But to escape this suffering by the way of death didn’t seem right to me.
There was this minute piece of light within me that told me there was more to life than pain and suffering. That one day, my life would impact someone.
The truth hit me: the reason for my empty, broken, and desperate heart, was having a lack of purpose to live for.
From the novel, Man’s Search For Meaning, By Viktor E. Frankl, this man attempts to find reason in his pain and suffering, while he endures unnecessary acts of evil during the times of the Holocaust. While I read his experiences in detail, I began to see that pain and suffering is a way of life and that we are promised to cross roads with it.
In Acts 14:22 Luke writes, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” I don’t want to speak for Viktor, but something tells me he knew this truth. So I began to constitute that, even though I am guaranteed to suffer in life, the only thing that I can do, is change how I see it. James 1:2-4 began to have new meaning for me, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
For far too long I chose to only see my current situation, which was agony and pain. I didn’t have a purpose to live, because I wasn’t living for anything except the depression that was killing me. I didn’t look beyond my current situation to see the glory and joy that would come.
Thus began the slow transformation of my heart and the way in which I thought. One of the biggest lies that I believe we as a human race have believed for far too long, is that pain and suffering is the end and there is no moving forward.
From the life of Job, this man went through innumerable amounts of pain and suffering, yet at the end of the story, “… the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). He experienced death and loss from his wife, children, and livestock, but after, God blessed him with more than what he had before. This isn’t the only truth that stands out to me, but there is one more that comes from verse five, chapter 42, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you…” What Job is saying is that he never experienced God in a true and intimate way for himself, but because of his pain and suffering, he was able to.
Job began to see God in a new way. His eyes were opened to who God is. Our God that is full of love, glory, majesty, joy, compassion, power, grace, and many more characteristics that my mind cannot fathom. Job experienced this. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Like Job and his life before pain and suffering, I too had only heard of God. Even after my trauma, I believed that I was worthless, unloveable, foolish, and weak. I believed that I was beyond saving, that I could not come back from this.
Even after running from him for four years, never truly knowing him before my suffering, and living in constant sin; He still loved and wanted me.
I saw and experienced His relentless pursuit and commitment of love and grace for my heart. I finally SAW the truth that God is love and He wants good things for me. Therefore, I stopped asking God to take away the pain and suffering and instead, I asked him to help me see it in a new way and to walk with me through it.
I came to this conclusion that, it didn’t matter what I expected from God or this crazy thing called life, but rather what God and life expected of me. To be in an intimate relationship with Him and to live my life as a light to those who are in a dark place.
By this time, I’m sure you have an answer, but I want to add a little more to this question… “and how did you overcome this?” Some of your answers may be like mine where you chose to let it defeat you, for others it may be that you whizzed on by with no problem, but for the rest, you haven’t faced it.
God has allowed me to experience such a trauma that I would have never dreamt of facing, but through this, I have come out on the other side as a testament to God’s faithfulness and to the truth that pain and suffering is a gift… because I now see the beauty in life and God.
The hope of my writing and experience is to illustrate that when pain and suffering comes, you shouldn’t run away out of fear or let it defeat you like I did. Rather, you should run head on toward the challenge and face it.
To quote Viktor Frankl once more, “Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.” Now, while you run head on into pain and suffering, know that God is with you every step of the way and that this momentary affliction, is no match for the glory that will follow.
“Sometimes the only way around suffering is to go straight through it.” -Anonymous