Pain is Universal but Suffering is Optional

I once knew a woman named Blanche who was confined to bed for years.  While I was in bed because of premature labor, we became telephone buddies.  Before bed confinement, Blanche had been in a wheelchair for thirty years because of a mistake during surgery.  After she returned home from the surgery, her husband left her.  Blanche was left to raise her four children alone in her wheelchair.  She had every reason to focus on what she had lost.  In fact, she did for a while.  She tried to sue the doctor.  She was depressed and disheartened.

Then one day she told me that she looked into the eyes of her daughter and realized everything her child had lost.Blanche realized her daughter needed a mother who was happy and a mother who had forgiven the doctor and her father.  She had every reason to be bitter after everything she had lost.  Instead, she decided to focus on what remained. 

In her later years she became bedridden.  Blanche had one window in her bedroom from which she could see a single tree.  During our telephone conversations, she would describe in intimate detail the intricate changes the seasons would bring to her tree.

"It is such a miracle to be able to see," Blanche said.  "I have so much to live for."

Blanche used the same detailed descriptions when she spoke of her grandchildren.  She saw beauty and blessings everywhere she looked because she chose to see with a grateful heart, even when her entire landscape was limited to a tiny bedroom where she was forced to use a bedpan.  Blanche knew the only true power we possess is our ability to see life as it really is.  Life, as it really is, is downright amazing under any conditions.

Blanche also understood the value of creating our own celebrations.  She often called me to wish me a happy Tuesday.  She didn't wait for holidays or birthdays to celebrate or share her love of life.  She understood we have to be in charge of our own joy, and create our own celebrations-for life is short.  She had determined to respond positively to the events and people in her life.  Her motto was, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

Pain is part of each life.  Though pain is universal - suffering is optional.  Our character development and personal growth is in our hands.  Though we can't always change our difficult circumstances, we can always change our attitude.  When we can can't change our circumstances, it is time to change our hearts.