Is Suffering Optional?

Psalms 119:81-88   uses words like longing, enduring, and persecuted.

The guy who wrote these verses was in a bad place. I tend to think King David wrote it, as he wrote many of the Psalms. But this one doesn’t clearly say who wrote it.

The author says he is like a wineskin in the smoke. In ancient middle-east wine was carried in goatskin leather pouches. To say you feel like a dried, shriveled wineskin means our dude was uncomfortable, empty, cracked and worn-out. Can you relate? I know when a migraine has lasted three days, I’m feeling a bit shriveled and empty.

He goes on to say unkind people were digging pitfalls for him….
And he is being persecuted with lies…
But wait, there’s more…
Things are so bad, he’s to the point of death!

Being the curious girl that I am, I did some digging. I wanted to know what was happening to our wineskin dude. Know what I found? Nothing. There is no record of what circumstances caused him to pen these eight verses. I suspect that was intentional. Because Wineskin Dude has been there, we can apply his responses to our lives no matter how big or how small our trials seem.

Wineskin Dude’s Responses to Pain

He longs, he hopes, he begs for comfort
Things get worse
He endures, reminding himself that God’s commandments are sure
Things get worse
He cries for God to help him
Things get worse
He doesn’t forget God’s truths–God’s steadfast love will give him life.

I love that. He doesn’t forget God is good and does good. How often in the middle of my pain do I complain, compare myself to others who aren’t in my situation or pity myself. That turns my pain into suffering.

Suffering is a choice. It’s the response to pain. My response keeps me from enjoying my day. These verses remind me that while I can’t control my circumstances I can control my responses. It reminds me of the quote, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% your reaction to it.”

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want when I have a migraine or don’t have the energy to do all I want to.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Help me chose to put down busy and stop and rest, no longer needing to rushing around doing, worrying, and controlling.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. No matter what I’m going though, you are with me, helping me and comforting me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Even in the worst of the worst, I can set my mind on the truths of who you are and I don’t have to suffer in hopelessness.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Thank you for being good and doing good.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Thank you for the awesome promise that your goodness and mercy follow me while I am here on earth. And when this short life is over, I can spend forever with you.


  1. Cyndi Campbell

    This is such an encouraging blog! I love even the title. “Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional.” How is it that I learned in Lamaze when preparing for Child birth that taking your attention off the pain and imagining yourself in a better place helped manage the pain, but now that my youngest is 10, I’ve forgotten that lesson. When we focus on us, we’re miserable. When we focus on Him, anything is tolerable, and He gives us the strength to endure all things. Thanks for the reminder!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: