The discussion on suffering continues from yesterday . . .
‘Why is there suffering?’ is a very natural and crucial question puzzling us for centuries. In general, sufferings are occasions which cause pain for us. In this life we constantly experience sufferings of many different kinds and size – physical and moral evils, illness, death, injustices, wars, natural disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc. Suffering is a human condition as much as it is the condition of all conscious living beings. If God, Father almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, cares for all his creatures, why does so much evil occur? Why are there so many people suffering in the world and why are others enjoying a great life? This, for human beings, is a mystery that often evokes the cry, “Why?”
The apostle Paul tried to answer this question, saying, “Death (suffering) came into the world through sin (Rom 5:12).” Does that mean that all suffering is caused by sin? It is true that some suffering is caused by our actions. This, however, may not seem completely true in the case of people who suffer through no fault of their own.
As a friend of mine said to me, “We have only a small vision, but God has the full picture.” We may not be able to comprehend ‘why’ God permits suffering for some people. Because of the complexity of the problem, there’s no simple or quick answer.
A Natural Approach to Suffering – empirical or material approach
Some people suffer because of material poverty or illness; others do not. In general, poverty is considered to be a cause of suffering. Ill-health in mind and body are examples of suffering. Therefore, this should mean that those who are wealthy and healthy don’t suffer. But even those who seem to be enjoying a great time may also be suffering in a different way. Would wealth, health or other material goods bring happiness to us and enable us to say, “I will not suffer anymore?”
Is it okay to say that suffering is not just for some people; that all people suffer one way or other? When we have everything, we realise that our attachment to people and the things of the world like wealth or health or even love can cause suffering for us. This is based on the theory that desire is the root of all evil – or rather our attachment to things. Therefore, the advice goes, detach yourself from everything. Do not, “Desire.” There are people who take this route of detaching themselves from desire. In my opinion this is a gloomy and hopeless approach.
A Spiritual Approach
Lack of material goods like health or wealth causes suffering as we saw above. But possession of material goods can also cause suffering. So no one can escape suffering in this life.
If God did punish us for our sins always – this world would not exist because our sins are massive and grave. If God did not grant material goods to some of those who pray, it shows that these temporal blessings are not his concern. When he gives prosperity to some people it is not prosperity but his love that is to be considered important. (Augustine, City of God)
In my opinion, lack of the awareness of God’s love is the real suffering. Think of the suffering of a child who is not able to understand the love of the parents. Love is out there but the child is not able to understand it. This is a pity. This is the case of those who are not able to understand and plunge into the journey with God. If you are able to enter into that journey, life is an experience of love no matter what you have or who you are.
St Francis and Mother Teresa were moved by this love and approached those who suffered in material poverty and illness to impart the awareness of God’s love.
Even though it’s not easy to understand, if we accept that there’s someone there (God) who always loves us, then we can handle any amount of suffering – suffering diffuses into God’s love. We can spread that love and receive it in return, and suffering will not seem as great.
What do you think? When we talk about suffering of others it may look easy, how would you handle a suffering situation personally?