Move Over Job, We’re Suffering too!
“The suffering of some can be blamed on the greed of others. The material and physical suffering from hunger, from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases. But the greatest suffering is being lonely, being alone, feeling unloved, having no-one.” Mother Theresa
Suffering, together with other painful and ‘bad things’ happening in our lives are some of the experiences common to the most of us. They impact on our lives relentlessly. They are an inevitable part of the human condition – it is part of being alive.
Suffering does not necessarily depend on our state of life, our age, or where we were born. It is a common experience of humanity at which we work to avoid at all costs.
Why do we have to suffer, even when we strive to lead good lives as did the righteous Job? Job didn’t have all the answers and like Job, we don’t know why God allows certain situations to turn our lives upside down. How often do we ask the question ‘why’ when we see or experience intense suffering in our personal lives and in the world at large?
Human suffering is hard to understand. Some see it as a natural and unfortunate part of life. Others see it as a mystery to be accepted although difficult to understand. We can gain some consolation from the comforting words in Matthew’s Gospel (10:26-36) where we read that not one sparrow will fall without God knowing about it.
Also, we are reassured that we are worth much more to Him than sparrows. However, while God loves the sparrow and each one of us, He does not necessarily prevent sparrows and humans from falling or suffering!
We can ask ourselves why didn’t God create a world in such a way that nothing ever went wrong. However, in His wisdom, He didn’t. God created a world in which we experience not only pain and suffering but also love, courage, faith, compassion and hope.
We have to accept that we are not mere robots living in a perfect world but are human beings living in an imperfect world where bushfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, serious illnesses, the current pandemic and now, disturbingly, the news of imminent warfare. Mistakenly, some people even believe these catastrophes are sent to us as punishment for our ‘sinful and selfish lives.’
Maybe, part of the answer is that suffering encourages us to stop and contemplate our lives more deeply. We suffer whenever we experience something so unpleasant, so distressing, that we long for it to end.
Often, suffering can surprise us because we mostly expect our lives to be normal and when the opposite happens, we wonder why life isn’t as we suppose it should be. This is what can jolt us out of our complacency and prompt us to think more deeply about what life means.
One of my favourite authors from way back, M. Scott Peck, in his book The Road Less Travelled, explained how life will always have pain and suffering and that those who are able to embrace that pain will be far better off. Now many years later, I wonder are we any better off by fully embracing our suffering and painful experiences? So much easier said than done!
If anything, there seems to be more suffering in the world. We not only have to deal with our own suffering but also having to witness the ongoing universal suffering still happening due to the Covid pandemic and now the possibility of war.
So how do we cope with these painful experiences? We can try to go it alone, or we can choose to seek help. I’m not thinking here just of medical and psychological help but at a deeper, more spiritual level. I’m talking about having faith and trust in a loving God.
I am often amazed, and not a little saddened, as I witness friends and loved ones who, despite their problems, choose not to have a faith relationship with God. For them, there is no God or Higher Power – it’s just them. The problem with that is they are right – it is just them……..
During his horrific suffering, Job’s faith was severely tested. Job wavered many times spiritually, but he endured the test of faith because he trusted in God even when he didn’t understand and his life made no sense to him. The most difficult spiritual truth in the Book of Job is that God allows us also to suffer without explanation.
Suffering can strengthen our faith or suffering can shatter our faith. Job chose to place his trust in God. No matter how difficult our lives become, we too can place our trust in God believing that His love and His grace are enough. It is up to us to make that choice.