Suffering Well…Through Long COVID

Suffering Well…Through Long COVID

reflection by Larry T.

I’ve learned a lot past two years. In 2021 I got Covid, spent 12 days in the hospital, 5 days in ICU, lost 30 pounds in 2 weeks. When I finally came home, I was completely helpless. I couldn’t get out of bed on my own or do anything on my own. My wife had to do everything. I used a walker and was on oxygen for 7 weeks. Early in my slow recovery I was given the impression I would recover over the next 6 months or so. But, the combination of a candida infection in my lungs and long covid created severe lung damage that continues today.

It’s not just the severity of these symptoms that has been so trying, but the duration. I can’t fully describe how hard the past 2+ years have been, but that’s really not the main point. The main point is about learning to suffer well and the power suffering has to transform us.

What does it mean to suffer well and suffer poorly?

Suffering well:
It’s normal in the face of suffering or very distressing situations to feel various levels of unhappiness, displeasure, disappointment, discouragement, and depression. It’s normal and valid to ask why and how this happened. But, its not helpful. It’s a dead end.

I’ve found the key to suffering well to be acceptance and even embracing the suffering.
How is that possible? Deep belief, faith and knowledge that God is always with us, always for us. Knowing that God will never leave you nor forsake you, no matter the outcome

Similarly, a deep trust and willingness to surrender to God and to be willing to carry our cross. I can choose to let it be. I can do hard things.

I’ve found suffering can lead to an abundance of courage. I have become more willing to lean into suffering and very difficult and stressful situations rather than simply trying to avoid them.

Another important factor to being able to suffer is learning to be grateful. We can’t force ourselves into being grateful, but I think gratefulness is more of a result of learning to suffer well. I think we know we’ve been able to accept and embrace our suffering when we have become grateful for our very affliction. I actually journaled 18 reasons why I’m grateful for the suffering I’ve endured. Some examples include: realizing the depth of my wife’s sacrificial love for me, and experiencing more empathy and compassion for others who are suffering.

I want to emphasize that some of these qualities that have been critical for me to suffer well, such as, courage, practicing the presence of God, and trusting and surrendering to God, just don’t happen overnight. They take practice.

What flows out of having suffered well?
• An unshakeable endurance, resiliency and perseverance that only comes from having suffered well. lt will lead to a sense that everyday challenges will seem easy and small. Things that were sources of great irritation, stress become minor speedbumps. Doing hard things becomes second nature.
• An overall real presence of hopefulness and gratefulness that will be deeply seated in your soul. Having suffered well through your darkest valley and having come out the other end, regardless of the outcome, you will have a sense of eternal hope that no matter what happens in life, God will always be with you and you will be ok no matter what. You won’t live in dread or fear of what life may have around the corner.
• I’ve become very empathetic, compassionate and sensitive to those who are suffering as I’ve allowed myself to accept and embrace my suffering when I was completely helpless, dependent and powerless.

By contrast, what does it look like to suffer poorly?
• Not being able to accept and embrace suffering. Getting stuck on the why question.
• Taking on the victim role.
• Complaining, getting bitter and becoming resentful…finding it impossible to be grateful for anything.
• Irritation rules our life.
• Turning to self medication to escape.

Why do we suffer poorly or what keeps us from suffering well?
• In my case, its all I knew. No one taught me or modeled what it looks like to suffer well.
• Never practicing the presence of God so that you just know that he is always with you no matter what.
• Perhaps a true lack of trust in God that He will never leave nor forsake you.
• Maybe we may lack courage and are more used to avoiding difficult situations and when we are confronted with something hard we don’t have the fortitude and courage to accept and embrace it.
• Being self reliant and self dependent and in control may lead to us breaking if we’re at the point of being completely helpless and powerless.

What are the potential outcomes of not suffering well?
• Everything in life seems hard. Everything is a potential cause for irritation or annoyance. Bitterness and resentment is pervasive. Patience and peace elude us.
• We may become self focused and feel we have the hardest life.
• Our ability to empathize and have compassion for others is low. We may have the mindset that life is hard for everyone that’s just life. We may have a hard time feeling happy for others when good things happen to them.
• We may live in a continual state of dread of the next bad thing.
• Since we become a victim, we may become entitled and feel like someone owes us something.
• Gratefulness eludes us. So does joy and happiness.

Suffering well will change your life, how you will choose to live, your outlook on life and those with whom you come into contact.

Our showing our kids how to suffer well may be our greatest legacy.

The greatest changes suffering had on me were:
• Empathy and compassion
• Perseverance and endurance and resiliency
• More of an optimistic outlook on life amidst difficult challenges
• Legacy: I want to challenge you who are parents, whether you have young or older kids, but especially if they’re younger: Learn to suffer well. It will transform who you are, but, maybe more importantly, our kids watch and observe how we handle difficult situations. They see how we suffer well.

We have a tendency to want to rescue our children from difficult situations; definitely from suffering. Its only natural. But, perhaps, they our children will be better served by learning to suffer well. Our showing them how to suffer well may be our greatest legacy.


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