COLUMN: The blessings of suffering

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By J. Edward Howell Jr.
Your Turn

The title of this column sounds like an oxymoron, a self-contradiction of terms, but as you read on, you will come to understand why it is accurate. I have lived a long life and have been involved in circumstances that crushed my spirit and left me feeling completely devastated and downfallen. 

Looking back on those times, I realized that, out of that darkness, the sun shone again, and life revealed new opportunities to grow and prosper. I had benefitted from the stress and tough times I had experienced. The Marine Corps has been able to train the most fierce warriors ever by making their recruits endure tough discipline and, seemingly, personal degradation—strenuous physical requirements added to the stress of the training. 

Many mothers felt sorry that their sons had to endure such torture. That is to say, until graduation day, when they saw the results of all that duress. They saw a patriotic and stalwart young soldier with a confident bravado shared by fellow Marines. Now, they understood the meaning of Duty, Honor, and Country. 

The young Marine was proud of what he had accomplished, and his mother was proud to see the strong young man he had become. There is a saying, “No pain, No gain.” And it is so true. I am saddened as I watch the news and see many of our young people in college protesting today. Many of them have lived a life of leisure, having all of their wants; they have never been really challenged by anything. They have never lived through a depression or a world conflict like World War II. Some seem not to appreciate the sacrifices made by many people of the past that made their easy life possible. 

On Oct. 7, 2021, I was in the operating room to have a prostate procedure done. 

Something was not done correctly, for my back was injured in the process. Because of that, I suffered excruciating pain for about a month until Dr. McFarland at the Spine Center in Newport News killed the pain with three epidurals in my spine. During this painful episode, I realized that I felt life was not worth living. 

But I recovered and found that life is worth living; my appreciation for a pain-free life was greatly enhanced. I found that it was calm after the storm. I remember that Jesus suffered horrible pain so that we could have everlasting life. Good things follow times of trial. God has taught us that. So welcome challenges, and be not dismayed; they help you grow stronger.

J. EDWARD HOWELL JR. is a native of Southampton County. He can be reached via email at