Writing About Suffering

One recent evening, a friend told me about her stepmother’s stage 4 cancer, asking for advice on ways to help her. The next morning, I received word another friend was killed in a car wreck. That evening, a different friend’s granddaughter’s baby was admitted to the hospital in an unresponsive state following a seizure. It was an emotional 24 hours. But one reason these friends talked to me about their issues is that they’ve walked with me through my own.

Lessons Learned

Have you ever noticed that when you’re about to write or teach a spiritual lesson, you walk through circumstances that make you confront your own handling of said spiritual lesson? It happens to me almost every week. I teach a weekly Bible study class and I promise you, whatever the lesson is about, I faced it during the previous week!

There is a good reason for this. It’s called authenticity. Nobody wants to listen to a Pollyanna who has never gone through tough circumstances preach about how to handle them. We all know this, but still it can be so easy to spout platitudes or quote Scriptures that seem to say everything will turn out okay.

The Right Approach

What is the right way to approach writing about suffering? Telling your personal story is a good place to start. Every one of us has faced some level of trauma or grief or physical suffering at some point in our lives. When we dare to talk about our deep hurts, it opens our readers’ hearts to hear the rest of our message because they feel a connection to us. We become real when we become vulnerable.

Reward

Therein lies the rub, as they say. It is terrifying to bare your soul to strangers. I submit to you that it may be the most difficult thing you ever do. It may also be the most rewarding thing you ever do. When I share my struggles with those I teach, an inner tension releases that I previously didn’t even know existed. And the connections I make with my class members are priceless. A bond is created that allows for more receptivity on their part.

Respect

I need to add a caveat here. Some things cannot be shared in a public forum. When there are other people involved who might be hurt or embarrassed, we must keep the situation private. We might be able to refer to it in generic terms, but we can in no way include anything that would identify them. The only exception would be if prior permission is granted.

Transparent Honesty

Readers don’t sit in a classroom with us each week and we’ll never know or hear about most of them. But they will listen to us when they read our message and learn the truth we’ve shared when they know we aren’t just spouting words–that we have lived the truth of what we say.

Do you have a message to share that involves difficulty or suffering? How ready are you to be transparent with your readers?

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This entry was posted in Writing, Writing Craft and tagged , , , , by kathryngraves. Bookmark the permalink.

About kathryngraves

Kathryn has a B.A. in Psychology and has been a pastor's wife for over 25 years. She and her husband are the parents of two grown sons and a daughter-in-law. She is a writer and speaker whose goal is to help others discover the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ Jesus. Her publishing credits include CBN.com, Drama Ministry, a story in an Essence compilation book, and Kansas/Nebraska Baptist Digest. She is available to speak to women's groups.

One thought on “Writing About Suffering

  1. Your statement about struggling with whatever you write or teach about is SO true! And I’m always amazed at the people who God sends my way, who are walking a familiar path and need a word of encouragement or empathy. Thanks for the reminder of how God uses our narratives to heal us and others.

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