WHY DO WE SUFFER?



I asked for strength. God gave me difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for wisdom. God gave me problems to solve.

I asked for prosperity. God gave me brawn and brain to work.

I asked for courage. God gave me dangers to overcome.

I asked for patience. God placed me in situations where I was forced to wait.

I asked for love. God gave me troubled people to help.

I asked for favors. God gave me opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted. I received everything I needed.

Today is the last day of your life……..so far.

Imagine with me a purely hypothetical situation in which your life is characterized by lying in a hammock on a beach without a care in the world, with the temperature and breeze just right, and your drink automatically refilling itself. If your whole life was characterized by moments such as these, would you develop courage? Compassion? Wisdom? Strength? Perseverance? The ability to trust? To forgive? To have faith?

It would be impossible to deely develop any of the character traits that we value so much if life was totally free of challenges.

At a school Rememberance Day Assembly many years ago, I was very moved by a song that alluded to rain as being God’s tears (Please substitute whatever term works for you-for simplicity’s sake I will use “God” here.)  I believe that God loves each of us so much that He cares about every single tear and sliver. And even though He has so much compassion for every bit of pain we have, He cares even more about our character development – just like we as parents care a lot about our children’s pain, but care MORE about their character development.

Life on earth is a bittersweet experience, full of beauty, love, and wonderful experiences, and also with its share of pain and losses of various kinds. Some of the wonderful experiences are the insights that life teaches us as we come across challenges to handle.

If you can trust that everything happens for a reason, including negative experiences, it will make your total amount of suffering less:  you will be trusting that you are loved and that there is meaning. This is what Victor Frankl used to maintain his sense of hope and integrity at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. After he was released, he wrote of his experiences there and of the “logotherapy”, or therapy based on making meaning, that he subsequently developed in his best-selling book “Man’s Search For Meaning”. This book sold over 50 million copies! This is in contrast to thinking that you are experiencing meaningless suffering, or are perhaps being punished.

The famous phrase “No doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should” comes from the ancient poem Desiderata that was written in Sanskrit thousands of years ago. It is a frequent source of comfort for many. On a similar vein, I love the poetry of a phrase I read in one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: ”Every snowflake lands where it is supposed to”. Living with this trust in life makes it much easier to accept the things that we do not like. Believing that “every cloud has a silver lining”, one can live with developing the habit of looking for these silver linings, though they may not become apparent til much later, and sometimes not at all.

After all, we tend to find what we look for, whether it’s silver linings, or proof that one is a victim. You can choose. Which do you think will serve you better?


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