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Silent Suffering

I was sitting in my living room and a message came in from one of my best friends. She expressed that she was sick but had no diagnosis yet. The lumps could be cancer, but more tests were needed to be sure. She said it didn’t look good. I just sat there and stared at my phone. My parents were in the room and they continued casual conversation while I sat there in silence. I was at a loss for words, and I was not about to open my mouth and share something that I did not fully understand myself. So I kept it in. I didn’t say anything to them for a few days. I didn’t want to worry more people than necessary.

“There isn’t a for sure diagnosis yet.” Right?

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to hold things in out of fear. Fear that if I open up, emotions will come pouring out. Emotions that maybe I’m not ready or willing to share just yet. Emotions that will stayed buried for as long as I choose. But emotions that inevitably will come pouring out at some point. It’s just a matter of time.

I sat in that chair and I felt calm. Is this the calm before the storm? Is this just disbelief and it’ll hit me eventually, probably when I least expect it? Or is this calmness more than that? Is this calmness God placing his hand on my shoulder, reminding me that I don’t need to carry this weight?

The longer I sat in silence the louder it became. But breaking through this silence were two words that I couldn’t seem to shake. I kept hearing the words “silent suffering.” These two words were entering my mind on repeat. It felt like God was trying to tell me something.

“Kerstan you always do this, but you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore, I’m here.”

God, is that you?

The next day I was catching up with a co-worker and we were reflecting on both of our healing journeys. Journeys that have allowed us to be transparent, vulnerable, and confident in ourselves. In that moment I felt a nudge, and I knew God wanted me share with her what had happened the night before. I told her about my friend, and I expressed that it’s crazy to me how often we choose to suffer in silence because we are too scared to tell someone. Because it is easier to carry it ourselves, and not burden other people. She looked at me and said, “my dad used to praise me for that, he called me his silent sufferer.” She went on to explain that she hadn’t thought about that for a long time, but also how much it bothered her. It conditioned her to believe that it was better not to share, and she was “stronger” for holding it in. This is something she still struggles with. I felt a sense of sadness, but also a deep calm wash over us.

Again, I was left speechless.

Is this why those words were on repeat in my mind?

Maybe God is trying to redefine what it means to suffer in silence?

I used to believe my denial for bad news, my choice not to talk about it, my ability to pretend it didn’t exist would allow me to remain calm, or at peace. I used to fear the breakdown, the inevitable boiling over of all the things I carried inside of me. I used to shut others out and suffer in silence. But now I approach my suffering so much differently.

I once heard Pastor Craig Groeschel say, “some of our greatest blessings come from our greatest breakings.” Now I know that these breaking points aren’t to be feared, but rather embraced. That old silent calmness was a false imitation of a peace that only God can provide.

I was sitting in my living room and a message came in from one of my best friends. She expressed that she was sick but had no diagnosis yet. The lumps could be cancer, but more tests were needed to be sure. She said it didn’t look good. I sat in silence, but I know now that I am no longer suffering. I am listening. I am calm. I know everything will be okay. I’m no longer living in denial; I’m living deep in prayer. Yes, sometimes I am still at a loss for words, but it’s in those moments when God hears my heart the most.

God has taught me such a beautiful balance. A balance that allows me to remain calm, even while living in the tension. The tension of sharing vs. listening. The tension of peace vs. heartbreak. The tension of keeping it in vs. bringing it to The Lord in prayer.

I don’t know what the outcome will be, or what tomorrow may bring, but what I do know is this.

We were not designed to be “silent sufferers.” The world has conditioned us to live this way.

Because this world fears pain, but lucky for us Jesus isn’t afraid.

He longs to hear our hearts so He may weep with us.

Whatever battle you face. Whatever pain you are pushing away. I am praying for you.

I pray He meets you in the silence, places his hand on your shoulder and brings you abundant peace too.

May you never suffer in silence again.

Kerstan Cooper

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