I'm a realist. For the most part I'm a very positive, upbeat person, but I'm also realistic. I know some people are going through prolonged suffering that no amount of 'the power of positive thinking' or self-help or psychological cliches can fix. So what happens when you're suffering all the time?
There's no easy answer for that one. I think nobody really knows the answer to that one. But having gone through some extended very hard times myself, I can, respectfully to those who know much more severe and long-lasting suffering, venture some ideas.
First, I have to believe that there is a way to alleviate suffering, at least to some degree, by your perspective about it. When you're suffering deeply for a long time, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that other people are suffering too. Everybody suffers but when we're hurting enough we can forget that.
And although nobody likes suffering, the fact of the matter is that suffering promotes growth. I know if you're in the midst of suffering that offers little comfort, but it is true. Think of someone like Stephen Hawking the British physicist paralyzed by ALS. (And I do not take his or anyone's suffering lightly.) He said he would have never have made the scientific breakthroughs he did if it had not been for the disease.
And long-term suffering can lead to a heart of compassion for others. You've been where others are and you can share and comfort them because you have the credibility of someone who knows what they're talking about and can truly feel their pain.
Suffering can lead to patience. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, suffering from paralysis, was once asked about his incredible patience during a frantic national crisis. He replied, 'You are talking to a person who has spent two years just trying to wiggle his little toe.'
And lastly, I don't know what you believe about an afterlife, but I firmly believe it exists. Consider what the seventeenth century preacher Thomas Watson said:
Affliction may be lasting, but it is not everlasting.