No suffering please
How do you feel about suffering? What are your beliefs about its cause and effect? Its purpose and possibilities. I, for one, am not volunteering for any unnecessary pain. However, if it hasn’t become evident at this point in our life, suffering is part of our journey as human beings.
Suffering was not part of God’s original divine plan. However, Satan’s introduction of sin in the Garden of Eden resulted in its creation (Gen. 3:16-19). As humans, we continually look for every possible way to avoid suffering. And if we can’t avoid it, we try to move through suffering as quickly as possible.
That’s why it is important for our spiritual growth and development to understand the what and why of suffering. This includes learning to best strengthen our resolve and focus when suffering occurs. Because “I guarantee you” that we all will suffer in the future. But the question is, what is your response to suffering? How well do you manage your pain?
What is suffering?
Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. As we look around, we might conclude that we are living in a continual state of suffering.
Pain, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional is evident in our society by the number of individuals seeking relief through food, drugs, and alcohol. Distress is extreme anxiety and sorrow.
Anxiety disorder is the class of mental disorder in which anxiety is the predominant feature. This disorder, an illness characterized by constant and boundless worry that interferes with the daily life, is the most common psychiatric illness in the United States, affecting 40 million American adults.
Hardship (deprivation) is caused by any number of reasons: acts of nature resulting in loss of life and property or man-made (political/social/economic agendas and policies). Hardship presents itself in the growth of the lower economic class, which is one-third of where Americans are today.
The lower economic class, also known as the working class, is the socio-economic group with the least income. They are often categorized as families whose income falls below poverty line. These are the people who live hand to mouth, or paycheck to paycheck. They barely earn enough to cover their expenses and a huge expense often sends them into debt.
What do we learn from the definition of suffering? Suffering affects more than our physical well-being. Suffering is not just episodic. It occurs more frequently and “routinely” than we want to admit. We have, unfortunately, accepted it as “part of life”. And to some degree it is part of life BUT how we respond and manage it, makes the difference between successful living and thriving OR stressful living and surviving.
When we experience pain that cannot be alleviated with medication, surgery, or rehabilitation, our physician will often prescribe pain management treatment. The intent is to teach us strategies which will help us maintain control or influence over our pain. This might include for example, breathing techniques or mindfulness-based therapies.
Key to successful pain management treatment is the realization that the pain will not be eliminated, however, we can exercise control over the degree the pain will hinder or disrupt our life.
For believers, our pain management for suffering lies with our knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord (2 Pet. 1: 3-4). Since we live in a fallen world, suffering will continue. However, armed with knowledge of God, we can live confidently, trusting in His goodness and His greatness (Ps. 27:1-3).
This is especially true during difficult times—times of suffering—when fear and doubt challenge our faith. When this happens, we can stand firmly on what we know about God and those things which He has revealed to us as His children (Rom. 8:17).
Knowing these things can not only help us better respond to the suffering happening in our life but also react appropriately to the disruptions in the world around us. How we respond to things revealed become the entry point for God to provide His power, His provision, and His presence.
Next week, we will continue to discuss and develop our theology on suffering.
 Pew Research Center