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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#10 Suffer.

The other day I found an old love letter that I sent to a girl at secondary school.

I used to type them - and keep copies.

Here’s an excruciating extract:

‘Dear Nikki,

I’ve liked you for ages. I can’t take my eyes off you. I’ve never had much luck with girls..but I’d really like to go out with you. Please don’t show this letter to anyone. I love you!

Woody xx

Well, Nikki said she’d rather just be friends.

Somehow my letter ended up being circulated round the whole school.

I thought my world had come to an end. Talk about suffering.

I remember feeling - even then - that there must be something wrong with the world if I felt this much pain and torment over a girl.

Of course the older I got the more I realised that that’s just the way the world is. It can be a cruel place.

We all suffer in different ways.

Teenage heartbreak. Job losses. Bereavement. Covid 19. York City losing.

We can’t avoid it. It’s just the reality of being a human being.

I’ve spent much of my Christian life wrestling with questions about faith and suffering. Or trying to answer someone else’s questions about it.

In fact the last party I was at - back when we were allowed parties - a lady asked: How could a good God have let my dad die?’

Still, it’s a bit easier than when I went to parties in my journalist days.

Then someone would always ask: How do you sleep at night?’

I never underestimate the personal challenge and level of interest there is in being a person of faith in times of suffering. Particularly this awful year.

I wish I had clearer, more concrete answers to the question of why God ‘allows’ it.

I don’t.

I’ve learnt over time to just get used to the maddening mystery of it all.

But I have discovered what really helps when life gets horrible.

Shouting the ‘why me?’ question at God in prayer is always cathartic.

Making space for peaceful reflection is quite reassuring too.

But above all, allowing myself to be comforted by others has often been the most soothing balm.

I remember collapsing into my dad’s arms to cry my eyes out after Nikki broke my teenage heart.

And the plentiful wine, casserole and sympathy from mum when my wife and I were told we couldn't have children.

So many of us - faith or no faith - too often take for granted the big difference our small gestures of love, care and listening can make to others when life gets tough.

My ongoing challenge is to be pride-swallowing enough to receive this help - and courageously compassionate enough to offer it out generously.

I suspect this year of Covid has given us all plenty of opportunities.

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