Seeker of Truth

For those who sincerely seek the truth, and only the truth. All are welcome, Christians, non-Christians, pagans, atheists, agnostics. etc. We hope you will find what you seek for.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What is the meaning of suffering?

Oftentimes, we wonder what the true meaning of suffering is. Why do we have to suffer?

Sure, we need not really understand the meaning of happiness. When we are happy, we feel joy automatically.

A smile forms on our face, the adrenaline rush.... We feel no immediate need to understand the feeling of being happy.

We dwell on it, and consciously and subconsciously wish our feelings of joy last as long as possible and not end. Who doesn't want to be happy?

God created us to be happy. The need for happiness is as basic as the need to love and to be loved. The highest form of happiness is love, and must always be based on love.

Happiness from a source not based on love does not last as long, and the intensity is also lower. This is God's universal law.

Happiness from love is so instantaneous.

But it's not a perfect world. Suffering is as much a part of our life as happiness is. Two sides of the same coin, right?

If you will observe in life, majority of our life is still filled with blessings of joy and only minority of our life is laden with sufferings and pain.

It is not because we deserve it, most certainly not. Like the saints say "Not through any merit of mine, but only through God's grace."

God is so good that He still allows happiness to occur for the most part in a person's life. Sadness and sufferings usually occur only as a minority part of our lifetimes.

So back to our original question 'What is the meaning of suffering and why do we have to suffer?"

No one, not even the saints themselves or the brightest theologians have ever laid claim to having the ultimate answer to this question.

Any person who does claim it is speaking from a point of vanity, not reason.
What we can offer is what has been observed from the past and is being observed in the present.

Many of the answers themselves so far are still an ongoing study.

We can state that suffering is an occurrence in our life that actually has many purposes. God uses suffering in this world for a variety of reasons, not always obvious to us or the suffering person.

In this sense, the cause or causes of a particular suffering can be a case-to-case basis thing. There is no one particular cause (or causes) for every occurrence of suffering in a person's life.

In the New Testament, Jesus forgave the sins of people with diseases and disabilities who came to Him to be healed of their misery.

Diseases and disabilities cause misery or suffering to a person. We can note that Jesus forgave the person's sins first before declaring "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."

At this point, only then does the actual miraculous physical healing occurs.

So in that sense, it is clear that the sufferings, misery of a person may be the result of past and/or present unrepented sins by that person.

However, the danger here is the fallacy that the cause of a person suffering right now is from entirely the result of his/her past and/or present sins. That may be the case, but it may also be from a very different cause or causes.

The Bible reminds us that God's ways are higher than ours, His wisdom beyond ours (or even the angels and saints!). It says "For who can fathom the ways of God?"

We see a beggar in the street and may unjustly accuse or judge the person prematurely. Some may say "He's lazy".

Others may blame his misery on a mismanaged government, hard economic times, corrupt people in power, etc. or even a combination of these.

We would be at fault here when we judge this beggar and conclude immediately that he's suffering now because of his past and/or present sins.

The truth is, only God truly knows all the causes, all the reasons for a person's suffering. We as humans may be able to know some of the reasons or part of the reasons but that's about it.
Our knowledge is limited.

The point is we often judge other people prematurely, we view them negatively in advance. This is a form of discrimination in itself, a "superiority complex" attitude.

It's implying we are better than somebody. Jesus Himself said "Why do you notice the speck in your brother's eye, while not seeing the pillar in your own eye? Remove your own speck first, then you would be able to see more clearly."

The truth is therefore, only God has the right to judge. He knows us, sees our souls inside out.

Also, one of the major reasons for a person's suffering is God could be testing that person. It makes us realize how weak we truly are without God and how much we need Him.

Trials and sufferings make a person stronger, tougher in the end.

A person thoroughly tested is likened by the Bible to "gold purified by fire." Like gold has to be cleansed or purified by the fires of a furnace, so it is with the human soul.

You will see this truth in great men and women, especially the saints. They're honored as great because they suffered a lot, but more importantly overcame these great odds.

People like St. Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, to name but a few.

King Solomon of the Holy Bible, the wisest man and king who ever lived was the one who wrote Chapters 10-22 of the Bible's Book of Proverbs. He once said "The man who conquers himself is greater than the conqueror of cities."

It's that hard. We all have weaknesses along with our strengths. It's always wise to thank God for whatever happens to us, good or bad.

If we truly trust Jesus, then everything is for a higher purpose.

In times of good or plenty, we can thank God for the blessings, the happiness, knowing fully well not everybody has these blessings.

Also, reflecting on harder times, troubled times in our lives (and our family's lives)
in the past helps us truly appreciate what we have been given.

This is true whether these blessings are great or of the smallest blessings.

But in harder times, we should pray to God for deliverance but still thank Him for the blessings we still have as well as the blessings we had in the past.

Ironically, it is even more important in hard times to see our blessings.

It is so much harder to see our blessings during troubled times than normal times
or when everythng is going so well for us.