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I Don’t Deserve This: Thoughts on Suffering

Updated on July 28, 2013
maramerce profile image

Melissa is a professional poet and writer. She currently has several works in her "vault" that she plans on publishing when she gets to it.

The Question of Suffering

A question I have often heard people ask—Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people and good things to happen to bad people? The answer for me has been that good things don’t only happen to bad people and vice versa, but only that both good and bad things happen to people.

Live long enough in this life and any of us will experience plenty of both. We may notice the disparity more often than when a truly deserving person gets rewarded or when someone who has lived his or her life hurting others actually ends up dealing with the consequences of it. I’ve learned in my life not to blame God for the world in which I live. I look around, and, yes, I see the wars, the famines, the greed, the treachery, the pollution, the violence, the abuses, but I don’t see God’s handiwork anywhere in it. Everything has a human source, a human footprint. It seems to me that God has given us in this world all the resources we need to care for every person on this planet, and He has commanded us, no less, to use those resources to care for one another (love your neighbor as yourself being the greatest commandment according to Jesus).

It is humans who choose to hoard and war and bicker and kill and exploit. The God I serve looks down into this world He has created and given to us with the responsibility of taking care of it and, with a grieving heart, watches as we fight over and destroy one another for it. Every bad experience I have ever had can be traced back to a particular bad decision by either a person or group of persons which inadvertently affected my life somehow in that ripple effect sort of way. The way I see it, we have no one to blame but ourselves in that sense. And who said life was fair? Reading C.S. Lewis made me truly ask myself the question Do I really want to be serving a JUST God? If we were all to get what we deserved, not what we thought we deserved in this life, could any of us really boast that we are good enough in all that we do to earn anything at all? I think the reality is that if we were to get what we deserved in this lifetime, we would, most of us, be completely pitiful and miserable. The God I serve is a God of unlimited second chances and mercy before justice. More often than I deserve, I find my suffering eased rather than multiplied.

What if I told you suffering is really a gift?

I know. Now I just sound crazy, but hear me out on it. I’m not speaking from the perspective of someone who has never been through anything terrible in this life. I’d say my childhood could rival the worst of the worst. Yet, I’d also say those experiences became a source of strength for me as I learned to overcome them and find a greater purpose in my life beyond them. I’ve always had wisdom beyond my years which came from having dealt with an unusual amount of suffering at an early age. Some of the ancient philosophers such as Plato believed when the body suffers, the soul benefits. I also believe there’s truth in that, but it also depends on how you handle your experiences as well. If you avoid or try to escape dealing with whatever you’re going through, it will only prolong your suffering and be destructive to you. If you face your suffering and use the experience in a positive way, you can grow into a better human being who is wiser afterwards and with more compassion for the suffering of others like you. I knew a woman who had miscarried a child and, years later, was still suffering from her loss. She spoke to me candidly about her grief and said she didn’t understand why God would take the child from her. Even though the woman had successfully given birth to three other children, she was still fixated on the loss of that particular child. It’s easy in our suffering to focus so much on what we don’t have and forget all that we do have in our lives. One thing I pointed out to her was something she had told me herself about being a nurse. As she was making her rounds one day, there was a young lady on her floor who had miscarried a baby that morning. Not only as a nurse, but as a woman with a shared experience, she held the young lady and comforted her exceptionally as she cried. The young lady even thanked her afterwards and said the woman had been a great help to her. I asked the woman then if she would have had as much compassion for the young lady if she had never lost a child herself. The woman thought about it and told me no, she would not have understood as much or maybe even cared as much if she had not already known what it was like to feel that way. I explained to her, then that was the purpose of her suffering, so that she could ease the same suffering of others. The experience had become a gift in her, allowing her to connect more deeply with such patients on a more human level than many of her coworkers.

A note on Jesus and His suffering

I’ve also often thought about what non-Christians must think of Jesus. What is the purpose of believing in a man as the son of God sent to die on a cross for the sins of the entire world? I’ve never really had a moment in my life where I doubted the truth of this claim—when I was a child, Jesus was as real to me as the kindness of a stranger’s hand helping me into the church van or handing me a plate of food during the Sunday lunch he or she had invited me over for since it was known my family was poor.

However, I still always wondered what the purpose of Jesus’ death and sacrifice was. It didn’t make sense to me for the longest time because, even though I had more than my fair share of suffering as a child, I still had a hard time connecting His suffering to mine. It was during my divorce, well into my adulthood, that I came to fully understand the purpose of Jesus’ perfect example of suffering. The first realization I had was that Jesus’ crucifixion and death were meant to 1) be a comfort to me in my own time of suffering, knowing that I was not alone and that someone else had gone through a similar experience, 2) be a lesson in the right way to handle the trials and tribulations of my own life—He was the ultimate model for patience, perseverance, and forgiveness, and 3) be a focal point outside of my own suffering.

Human suffering can easily become a trap that ensnares us sometimes our entire lives. It is human nature to focus inward during times of stress and hardship, but we can get so self-centered when we get stuck in survival mode that we lose sight of not only what is good in our lives, but all the other people around us who either need us or who are attempting to care for us. Days bleed into weeks, which bleed into months, and months into years, then before we know it our entire lives have been drenched in despair, and we find ourselves wallowing in misery when we could have learned the meaning of joy.

I find it hard to get so lost in myself when I look upon the cross and remember the agony Jesus suffered there, and I think to myself, I want to be like Him. I want to overcome this too. And really that’s the whole point of it I guess. The word “Christian” just means “little Christ” and that makes sense. Human beings learn best by example. Jesus is the ultimate mentor.

© 2013 maramerce

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    • A Thousand Words profile image

      A Thousand Words 3 years ago

      While I understand and appreciate the intent of your hub, you said something that often peeves me. And it is a common saying among the religious. I had similar views when I was a Christian, actually. And it's honestly a nice sentiment, but to call suffering a gift really feels like it diminishes the experience. Don't get me wrong, I also believe that that which we experience has to potential to be helpful (or hurtful) in the future. But to call it a gift lessens the negativity of the experience. It's wonderful that this woman was able to comfort another woman who experienced miscarriage. However, to say that her own miscarriage was a gift, or "meant to happen" so that she could comfort someone else is ludicrous. I had my fair share of unpleasantries growing up, and a fair share of true heartache, stress, and despair. I do not consider the things that I experienced as a gift, and don't think they were "meant to be."

      But, I do know that I have two choices. 1) I can dwell on it and be angry, or 2) I can pull myself up, move forward, and learn from what happened. Will I ever see any of it as a gift? Hell no. It hurt. It took precious years of my life. But, my life isn't over, and I have the power to live and to choose to live.

      The reason that ideas like these, though they come from a place of good intent, bother me, is because it diminishes the experience. The girls in the sex slave trade, who are being raped, drugged, and abused daily are losing precious, precious years of their lives. They're being violated constantly by the most vile of people. If they escape, and if they can find a way to cope, their escape may be able to comfort other girls and give them hope of an escape. But was their suffering a gift? No. If there is a God, should He sit idly by while they suffer? No. Have these young girls done anything so vile that justice for them would've been worse then their life as a sex slave? No. Justice would've been for all those pigs to die then and there with their pants down, or for the girls to be "turned invisible" like Paul was to escape prison and for these men to be immediately exposed and apprehended before more girls were enslaved.

      Don't diminish something negative by calling it a gift. Suffering is not a gift. But what you do afterwards is up to you. And if someone needs to experience something to truly comfort and empathize with someone else, there might be some "soul searching" that needs to be done.

    • maramerce profile image
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      maramerce 3 years ago from United States

      Thank you for your comment. That's an interesting viewpoint you have and obviously different from my own. I respect your right to it.

      I do want to point out a misreading on your part. I did not say the woman's miscarriage was a gift. I said it BECAME a gift to her when she was able to use the experience to relate to and help someone else who was going through the same experience. Her ability to connect with someone else's suffering was actually a healing moment for her.

      Also, I'm not a religious person. I do believe in God, I do have a personal faith, and I do openly express it in my work. Ironically, if you read my stance on most issues, you'd see many Christians wouldn't be too quick to claim me. I don't identify with religion. I just happen to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

      Yes, to me, suffering is a gift. But you have to understand the way I look at the world is different from you. This world doesn't owe us a damn thing. The way I see it, EVERYTHING is a gift. When you submit your life to God, it belongs to Him or Her. It's a choice, but once you do so you also have the freedom to accept what you can't change or control and make something positive out of it instead of dwelling on the negative. Of course there are horrible and evil people in this world, but why let them win? I've had my fair share of terrible experiences and years of my life damaged from all kinds of abuse, but I CHOSE to rise above it instead of defiantly wallowing in my sadness and anger. I'm not trying to make light of suffering. I'm trying to give hope to those who suffer and encourage others who have been through hard times like myself to rise above it and conquer it with positivity.

    • A Thousand Words profile image

      A Thousand Words 3 years ago

      You can't say in your sub-heading "what if I told you that suffering was a gift," and then expect someone to think that's not what you meant. You also said in your response to my comment that "yes, to me suffering is a gift." If suffering is a gift, then her miscarriage and the emotions with it was her suffering, and you are therefore saying this was a gift. I guess my problem is more word choice then the intent behind it. As I said I was aware that it came from a place of good intent. We did not disagree as far as choosing to rise above the suffering, as I said:

      "I can pull myself up, move forward, and learn from what happened. Will I ever see any of it as a gift? Hell no. It hurt. It took precious years of my life. But, my life isn't over, and I have the power to live and to choose to live."

      Your hub was well written, and I agreed with a good portion of it, except the religious bit, (and I don't define religious just as people who follow a bunch traditions and go through the motions, I include all who adhere to a worldview that includes a deity/deities and how he/she/it/they interact with us, and the thought processes that follow).

      The gift part was what ruffled my feathers. A gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present. It has positive connotation. It shouldn't cause such emotional and mental (even physical) distress. There are so many other ways that you could've put it. But for the most part, we actually do agree on how to become better after suffering.

      I agree that the world owes us nothing as it is not considered divine nor personal/loving. It only exists, and we have to figure out how to live in it, according to how it works. There is no other choice. But for a God, especially one that's supposed to be personal and claims to be "love," oh yes, He owes us big time, whether we choose to "submit" to Him or not. And a relationship should more tham just "it is how it is."

      If a parent chooses to have sex, becomes pregnant, carries the child to term, and raises it, what does the parent owe the child? Nothing? So they can choose to feed them sometimes, but when they choose not to, the child just has to go hungry and except that sometimes they're just going to have to be hungry? They can cut off the child's arm, but if they have money, spend millions on a bionic arm, and then it's "no harm, no foul?" That's slave/master mentality, not healthy child/parent mentality, nor healthy mentality for any relationship.

      A healthy parent/child relationship consists of healthy boundaries for protection and love, not for selfishness and jealousy (and maybe a little protection and love, too). It consists of firm, but fair punishments when those boundaries are crossed and rewards when they are not (Hell isn't anywhere near a fair punishment, especially when it's the destination for anyone from a liar to a pedophile/rapist, and it's an eternal punishment for finite mistakes/beings). The child is owed love and a decent way of life because the child was not born of their [b]own accord[/b]. The only ones with choice in the matter were the parents. Same as God. He chose to make us, how come we are the only ones responsible? Why does He owe us nothing? That's what abusive parents say to their children. Not fair and loving ones. That's what masters say to slaves.

    • maramerce profile image
      Author

      maramerce 3 years ago from United States

      Haha, well this is an interesting conversation. We really do view God very differently. I don't want to diminish your viewpoint with my comment so I'll go ahead and qualify my statement by saying this is simply what I believe personally. My intent is never to change anyone else's mind who believes differently than I do. I believe that people need to seek the truth for themselves so I don't interfere with their search for faith or answers in life, but simply provide my own truth in context to my own experiences. As Jesus says, let those with ears to hear, hear it.

      With that being said, where we differ is the fact that I don't believe God hurts people. People hurt people. To use your analogy, it would be like a child blaming their parent when another kid at school bullies them. What does the parent do? The parent comforts the child, talks to the teacher, and maybe talks to the other parent, but beyond that the parent doesn't fight the child's battles for him or her. Now, anytime we use human terms to describe the nature of God it's an imperfect analogy and you can always find fault with it. But as C.S. Lewis once said, do we really want to live in a world with a "just" God? Do we really want to get what we deserve every time we do something wrong? I certainly don't. I mean, I'm a decent person, but I'm certainly not perfect. I need God's grace and mercy in my life as much as the next person.

      What I mean by life doesn't owe us a damn thing is better illustrated by a personal example. My mother abused and neglected me as a child then left me when I was 11 to live with an alcoholic father and to take care of my 7 year old brother. I had a really rough life because of that and not having a mother around. She didn't show me much love or emotional affection although she provided for some of my physical needs from time to time. I could have hated her all my life for what she did to me and rightfully so, but as an adult I made the effort to forgive her and have some kind of relationship with her. Around seven years ago, I went through a divorce and fell on hard times. I lost everything and all I had was my old car. I didn't know what I was going to do. By the grace of God, my mother offered to take me in and help me. If it hadn't been for her generosity toward me in the past five or six years, I'm sure I'd be dead in a ditch somewhere.

      Here's the thing, had I chosen to stay angry with her and never forgiven her, I would not have been able to experience God's grace in my life THROUGH that restored relationship with her in my adult life. It was only after this experience that I realized how much forgiveness is really about US and not them. Forgiving someone doesn't mean what they did was okay all of sudden. It's never going to be okay that my mother stripped me naked and threw me outside in the snow in the middle of the night as a child, and I felt like I was going to freeze to death. But I allowed God to heal my heart from that experience and with a better understanding of my mother, I was also able to accept her for her weaknesses and flaws. I was able to see her as a human being with faults and not as a monster with some terrible power over me. She made bad decisions and more importantly she understands that now and has even asked me to forgive her for them.

      I can tell you've been hurt by people in the past and have a lot of anger about it. I'm not going to tell you not to be angry or that your anger isn't justified. It's normal to be angry. I was angry for a long time too, but through my suffering God opened my eyes. I remember I was suffering and feeling sorry for myself and God pointed out a person who was suffering worse than I was. What right did I have to feel sorry for myself? It's a strange thing, but helping someone else is what pulled me out of myself and my own pity party. It put my life and my experiences in perspective and let me see all the ways I was blessed instead of simply cursed. I guess I'm just different in that sense. When I see a disaster, I don't focus on all the destruction. I notice all the hands that come to help in the midst of it. How we choose to see the world is our choice. And I choose to see the world as a place that wants to mean well and wants to do good even though there is evil in it and people are weak. It heals me to see the goodness in the world and err on the side of positivity because if not, I'd have been dead a long time ago.

      You are obviously a very intelligent person who has been through a lot in life as well. Your questions are valid, and I can sense your passion in your responses. I truly wish you all the best in your search for the answers you need and much peace as well.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, mara,

      This is an excellent piece of writing. Amazing, to be honest.

      I loved every word. Voted up and all the choices because you deserve it.

      Gold must be purified by placing it in beyond-hot boiling water, then the scum and impurities float to the top. A potter must remove the rocks and sticks from a piece of clay: Two explanations as to why we suffer. We are not as perfect as we think. Only The Master knows this pleasure.

      You have such a gift for writing. Just keep writing and good things are bound to happen to you.

      I cordially invite you to read one or two of my hubs, and be one of my followers.

      That would make my day.

      I am so honored to meet you.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

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