Raw Beauty Intiative event talks about finding God through suffering

GVL/Luke Holmes - The Raw Beauty Initiative student organization holds a meeting in Kirkhof on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.

Luke Holmes

GVL/Luke Holmes – The Raw Beauty Initiative student organization holds a meeting in Kirkhof on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015.

Ty Konell

Pain is a seemingly unavoidable human experience. While people each deal with pain in their own ways, the women at the Raw Beauty Initiative held an event Saturday, April 8, to offer another way to view suffering.

The Raw Beauty Initiative was founded two years ago when people saw there was a space missing for Christian women building each other up.

“As women, we need women in a special way to learn and grow—to become the best versions of ourselves,” said Rachel Pepmeyer, member of the Raw Beauty Initiative. “We hold events several times a semester that include a time for fellowship, hearing a student’s personal story and a guest speaker’s wisdom.”

The event called “Serenity Amidst Suffering” was held in Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof Center from 9:30 a.m. to noon, and encouraged attendees to view pain as a way to gain a relationship with God.

“I think suffering offers us as humans the opportunity to walk alongside Christ in his suffering. This spiritual conflict is a purification, not a punishment,” said Mikayla Thibodeau, member of the Raw Beauty Initiative. “It is an invitation to draw near to him and to rely on him.”

Furthermore, the event illustrated suffering as a new way to bring people into the Christian faith.

“Although suffering is never enjoyable in the moment, complex good can and does come of it,” Pepmeyer said. “If we suffer well, then we have a sacred opportunity to bring others into a relationship with Christ.”

However, the members of the initiative did not claim to have all of the answers.

“Through this event, we don’t aim to answer the question of why there is suffering in the world, because we don’t know,” Pepmeyer said. “Rather, we aim to convey the truth that suffering was not intended as part of God’s original plan and that he does not delight in our suffering.”

Rather than giving direct answers, the members opened up the space for speakers to tell attendees their experiences.

“We at The Raw Beauty Initiative do not have all the answers, but we can offer you the opportunity to hear two beautiful and powerful stories of how two women encountered the love and peace of God through terrible sorrow and hardship,” Thibodeau said. “The purpose is we seek the truth, beauty and goodness of suffering.”

Members of the Raw Beauty Initiative believe suffering is an important topic to discuss, as their faith has helped them through times of pain.

“When I am suffering, I can turn to the Lord to be my comfort instead of looking to other outlets such as comfort food or Netflix,” Thibodeau said. “I found that ultimately he is the friend that never that has never let me down, and is always available when I need him.”

Members of the initiative said a relationship with their God has allowed them to move past their hardships.

“I can choose (moving forward) by surrendering my control to him or I can keep the control and be enslaved to my suffering instead of encountering the freedom he has to offer,” Thibodeau said. “Christ can remove the bondage that suffering holds over us.”

Furthermore, Raw Beauty Initiative members believe that dealing with pain head on gives them the ability to support others.

“It’s important to learn how to confront the pain of suffering so that healing can begin to take place,” Pepmeyer said. “It is just as important to know how to love and help those around us who are going through sufferings of their own.”