On Suffering, God, & Chronic Illness//Laura Kate//CNU

Suffer: a verb meaning “to experience or be subjected to something bad or unpleasant”

Such a simple definition. The words my online dictionary used to describe suffering made it sound like a mosquito bite – annoying, itchy, and gone within a couple of days.

Upon further research (because I’m a former English major and words are a part of me forever now), I found the Latin origin of suffer: sufferre – to bear, undergo, endure, carry, or put under – from the prefix sub- (meaning ‘under’) and suffix –ferre (meaning ‘to carry’).

Dead languages aside, I think the Latin parts of suffer truly give us insight to what is going on with this word. To suffer, to carry something under great strain, to be burdened. It’s more complex than a bad day, and it’s certainly not much like our mosquito bite at all.

Before this year, I could have given you a fabulous textbook definition of suffering. Other than a really rough breakup junior year, however, I wouldn’t have been able to piece much together in the form of a personal example. This past winter altered that when my health suddenly evaporated – my immune system decided it was time to wage war against my digestive system and I was left with a very unhappy colon and a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. My senior spring semester was filled with sleepless nights, diarrhea, constant vomiting, anemia, and more hospital visits and prescriptions than I ever thought possible for a college-aged, “normal” person.

Where is God and what is He doing? I thought (and still think) constantly. Doesn’t He see me suffering down here? Aren’t my prayers going through? Is this because I didn’t forward one of those chain emails nine years ago?

 Real, live suffering has a way of driving you to search for hope, and true hope can only be found in Jesus. One of my current favorite Scripture passages is Hebrews 4:14-16. Check it out:

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” NIV

I distinctly remember a Fall Retreat many moons ago (okay, like three) where the speaker reminded us that God cares and God can. That phrase has stuck with me ever since; God has compassion for me in my pain and has strength to carry me through it. Like the verses from Hebrews remind me, I don’t serve a God Who can’t relate to me. In fact, God experienced the depths of human suffering during His time on earth, both as a Son committed to dying for a purpose and as a Father watching His Son fulfill that purpose. I can take heart and push forward in faith, knowing my Jesus both understands my suffering and has overcome it.

So, here I am. And, there you are. In the midst of whatever hard, hard thing this season has brought, please know that God cares and God can. He sees the depths of our suffering, and He provides grace to bimg_7341ear up under the burden – whether it be a bug bite or an auto-immune disease!


Hi, friends! My name is Laura Kate, and I’m a super recent grad of CNU! I loved it so much, I decided to stay for another year…to snag a Master’s in teaching so I can plant myself in a local elementary school. I am very fond of cats and very not-fond of dogs, and I can quote (and act out) most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Grad life is difficult, but God is providing a way through and paving it with episodes of The Office and third-grade jokes. If you or anyone you love is struggling with a chronic illness, please feel free to reach out to me! Community is a God-given resource.