A Resolution: Finding Meaning in Suffering

Working at Mysterious Ways, Assistant Editor Dan Hoffman finds inspiration for a New Year’s Resolution.

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Posted in , Jan 7, 2016

Guideposts: A beach scene with 2016 written in the sand.

Just before the holidays I had a long conversation over the phone with one of our readers at Mysterious Ways. She shared with me the story of her long struggle with chronic illness and how this lead her to make some important contributions in auto-immune disease research—despite not having a background in research.

Our talk, which lasted nearly an hour, was easily one of the most meaningful moments I’ve had since beginning at Mysterious Ways, because it resonated so much with what I’ve been thinking about lately—that our bodies fail us for reasons beyond our grasp, and in ways that can seem cruel, unfair, and above all perhaps, senseless.

It was probably my upcoming visit home that was leading my thoughts in this direction, because I would see my parents, who, while in more or less good health, are getting older at a rate that wasn’t apparent when I lived with them as a kid. And I, too, have struggled with chronic pain, as I detailed in an earlier post.

I was moved by our reader’s story. The moral is simple: we all face difficulties, personal tragedies, and declining health—but not necessarily in equal measure. There is no inherent sense to any of it—it’s up to us, like this reader, to make some sense of it. I don’t think there’s anything novel in this, but it’s something I have to remind myself of all the time.

That day on the phone, I was reminded—not to get stuck thinking the obstacles in my life are uniquely unfair, and therefore some kind of excuse. This particular reader, like many of the people in our stories, saw her hardship as anything but an excuse. Instead it was a calling to her life’s work.

And so, since it’s the time of year for resolutions, mine is to try and look at things this way. It might not be as clear cut (I doubt my bout with foot pain will lead me to study podiatry) for everyone—but that, I suppose, is just another part of the challenge. 

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