Purpose in the Pathos
Not without Purpose #4
Pathos—anguish, despair, sorrow; the emotions produced by tragedy. (I could call it suffering but then it wouldn’t align with my “P” purposes alliteration.) Is there purpose in the pathos, in our suffering, in emotional upheaval?
When our twin girls died at birth, I remember being told I was special to be chosen for this trial because God knew I would endure. Hmm, I sure would like to be ordinary if special means piling on the pain. In the midst of my anguish, I wanted to see a purpose for our loss. Was there one? Is there ever one?
The reality is, dreary as it sounds, life is filled with days of suffering that varies in intensity. On good days we aren’t mindful of pain, but it surrounds us because our world is fallen, imperfect. Failure and disappointment, loss and tragedy are part of the human condition. Is there purpose in the midst of pathos?
There are many purposes we cannot see, but here are a few refining effects I’ve experienced. Pathos—anguish of soul, sorrow of heart—
- Purifies us—it strips away superficial delights and distractions, revealing what is true, lasting, and of value.
- Humbles us—it reveals our vulnerability and weakness, but also creates a softness of heart.
- Makes us ministers of grace—it sensitizes us to the pain of fellow sufferers.
- Brings us to a place of solitude—a place only God can enter because, in the words of a favorite spiritual, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…nobody knows but Jesus.”
- Deepens us—it enriches us and produces fruit that only comes through suffering.
- Clarifies our perspective—it brings an abrupt realization that life on earth is deficient and temporal and, along with all creation, we begin to “wait eagerly for our adoption…, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).
In this place of sorrow and pain, God is bringing forth something beautiful, rich, and lasting.
Endure. Persist. Trust.
Our “momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18