Finding Purpose through Suffering

1 in 4 women use anxiety or anti-depression medicine. Rebekah Lyons tackles the struggle to overcome a sense of purposelessness and find meaning in the midst of suffering.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. Have you ever seen beauty in suffering?
  2. How can you work against a sense of purposelessness and use your painful experiences to help others?

I think, like a lot of things in life, when we feel it, all of the sudden we notice it everywhere. As I got into this, I realized through studies that one in four women are on anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication, which also means there's probably another one in four that are considering it, that possibly need it, that feel plagued by it.

So that means in every family, someone suffers from this. If it's not you, it's someone that you know and love, and it might even ebb and flow. I think it's silence and stillness that cause those things to surface in us. So often we can just distract ourselves with busy and we just kind of stuff it down. But when you're stressed, it pushes whatever's in to the out, and all of the sudden, you have to face the junk.

And so, I think for women, when we, when we feel this loss or this fear of purposelessness, depression and anxiety are the root of fear, so it settles in, and depression is when we lose a hope for the future. We've lost an imagination for what our lives might look like, and we're not really sure where to go with that. I started to do some reading, and I came across Victor Frankl's work, and he wrote an 850-page book. If you've got a lot of time on your hands, it's called "Man's Search for Meaning." And he's a Holocaust survivor, and he really details and chronicles the beauty of suffering, and what suffering does and what it works out.

And part of his premise is that the root of anxiety is unfulfilled responsibility. And the first time I heard that I was like, "Whoa," because I knew that while I had been struggling with this, I had also been struggling with questions of meaning and purpose and, "Was I giving myself and my time toward something that mattered? Was I contributing in a way that redeemed something that was broken." And I just felt lost. I think a lot of us women fade when we don't know who we are.

So if you were to ask, "When do you feel joy?" Honestly, I feel joy and purpose when I am able to connect with someone in their pain, because I know what that feels like. When we walk in things that are painful, we feel that pain with others, so it makes sense now that meaning for me is when I'm able to use a gift of writing to talk about a struggle of anxiety or depression.

So that's the first part, I think, of what I started to learn when I started to waken to meaning. And it took me having this free-fall to really ask these deeper questions of life.