Does having a condition mean that you suffer with it? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Yesterday, my wife shared on her Facebook the tragic story of a young girl who committed suicide because of being diagnosed with Aspergers. Now I have not hidden on here that my wife and I both have Aspergers. Does that sometimes lead to suffering? Of course. There are difficulties. I can have a hard time recognizing sarcasm and tend to take things very literally. I can easily obsess on matters that I shouldn’t and I am prone to anxiety.
Yet as I looked at the comments on this story, I think of the first one I read and it had a phrase that I have seen several times, even when people speak about me. That is the term that they know someone who suffers with Aspergers.
I don’t like that term.
I don’t like it because it makes it sound like if you have a condition, then you are automatically meant to suffer. Now of course we can argue that it could increase your likelihood of negatives in your life. We can argue that it could give you extra hurdles. I would also add that it gives me several bonuses too. I like the way that my mind works with this. I think it enables me to be a better husband as I am able to be so focused on my spouse in a special way and it gives me a great memory to use in the field of apologetics. I think my mind is also much better able to multi-task.
The point is that suffering is a choice. I have very little control over what happens to me. I cannot control if you care about me or hate me. I would prefer that you care, but I cannot control that. I would prefer many things, but I cannot control them. Life is not based on what I want and prefer. It is just what it is. I am playing a game and I cannot control the cards that I have been dealt. I can control what I do with those cards and I can control that I will play them to the best of my ability. I cannot guarantee that I will win a game, but I can guarantee that I will be fighting the whole time.
I can control my attitude towards what happens. That takes work, and I realize that, but that is my responsibility to learn how to do that. I cannot hold other people responsible for my feelings. I have made it a choice to not be a victim to what others say. It is okay for me to feel sad at times and to feel hurt at times. It also does not mean that I act recklessly. It means that I live my life the best that I can and if you do something wrong to me, well that’s on your head. I’m not responsible for it. I could have even provoked you in some way that led to your doing a wrong action, even doing something wrong myself, but you are responsible for your own wrong actions just as I am for mine.
None of this is to deny that suffering is real. I went through back surgery when I was fifteen and about to turn sixteen. I had a steel rod placed on my spine. Let me tell you, that suffering pain I felt was VERY VERY real! Never have I felt such intense physical pain before. The stomach aches afterwards (They had to take my stomach out to do the surgery for a bit and I am told they unintentionally stretched it when they did) were very real. Twice in the past year I have had the flu, the worst time being in December. The pain was very real. With emotional pain, I have had depression and I have had panic attacks. Yes. Those pains were very very real. In fact, I would rather go through the back surgery again than the depression and panic attacks.
Suffering is real.
And what about other people in the world? Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are persecuted for our faith. I have been told about some who had boiling water applied to their bodies, even to their genitals, to make them feel pain. Many times, these are even little children who undergo this. This suffering is very real. They have no choice as to if they will undergo this suffering and no doubt with the physical suffering, they feel the effects of that for a lifetime. What about that?
You cannot choose if you will feel physical suffering or not. That much is real.
You can choose how you respond to it.
For little children, this can be harder because children are really impressionable in so many ways and don’t know better. They don’t know the coping skills. This is why good parenting is so essential. You have to watch the messages you are giving your children early on. They have the capability to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, some children are raised by terrible parents who are abusive and tell them lies and physically abuse them. When does the pain reach its worst? It is when the child starts to believe everything that is said and done to him. It is when the child internalizes it. Then the child unknowingly becomes his own abuser too.
A friend asked me about Jesus in response to this. Jesus underwent suffering. What about that? Yes. Yes He did. He chose a life of suffering. He was described as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. At the same time, He was also a man of great joy. How do I know this?
People wanted to be around Jesus.
Do you really want to be around people that are negative? Not at all. Jesus was invited to parties and gatherings. When people were loved by Jesus, they took that as God loving them. Jesus had done miracles and spoke in the style of a prophet to show who He was. People came to Him for forgiveness instead of the temple. People came to Him for healing instead of the temple. In fact, Hebrews tells us that Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him. Jesus was not looking at the suffering itself. He was looking beyond the suffering to the fruit that it would be used for.
We in the midst of our suffering have to do the same, and might I say we tend to fare worse than our counterparts? There are people that live without a steady food supply, no internet, not having a plumbing system to use the bathroom, subject to all manner of weather, under persecution by wicked governments, and without clean water, and many of them have more faith and joy than we have. We should be ashamed to see the suffering that other people face with joy and compare that to the kind of suffering that we too often complain about over here.
And who is responsible for that?
They are the ones choosing to rejoice in the face of suffering. We are the ones choosing to focus on the suffering that we have. We cannot control the suffering that others inflict on us, but we can control the suffering that we choose to reflect on. This can take time and work depending our psychology, but we have that choice.
Do not define me as suffering with Aspergers. My life is an adventure. I thrive. I am happy to be alive. I choose to live every day seeking to learn more about my God and to serve Him. I love doing Christian apologetics. I love the wife that I’ve been given. All of this is a gift to me from God. I serve Him and I look forward to serving Him in His Kingdom.