Sometimes my 10-year-old son will ask me questions that have no answer, or at least I don’t know the answer. So, I turn the question back to him and tell him any answer he comes up with will be as good an answer as any. This strategy of seeking answers through the imagination is what gives life to creative inventions.
This same approach can be used with suffering, whether it’s physical or emotional. Whatever positive meaning you can give to suffering, even if feels like a made up, fake answer can give suffering a purpose to allow a transformation which can transcend the suffering
When suffering is actively pursuing me, though, I struggle with my relationship with God, especially when it seems the resolution of suffering is beyond the reach of His redemptive power. Sometimes, I even throw my hands up in despair and renounce God’s existence. In the midst of unmitigated suffering, either my own others, I am provoked to question the purpose of existence. What is this all about? The capricious energy of random experiences that creates hardship for people makes me queasy about God’s intention.
It is easy and not easy to give up on a belief in God. It is easy to not believe in God during life, but not so easy after death. It’s the unknown eternity that prompts me to actively wrestle with the existence of God in the here and now, even with all of the suffering. Maybe, God will rename me “Israel” like He did Jacob in his wrestling with an angel. “Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28
Finding a Diagram for living
My diagram for living has been distilled to the essence of turning to God to guide me through my suffering. It is the diagram I can comfortably make peace with. An agreement with the concept that God allows suffering or somehow meters it out through the fine science and art of not “giving us more than we can bear” is a cruel, malevolent description of God’s role. God experiences our sincerity in turning to Him by giving us the Free Choice of turning to Him. It is a mutual relationship of active engagement with each other.
Community is the antidote and the curse. Getting in with the “right crowd” can make or break a person’s life. The faith community uses evangelization to persuade people to turn to God. Its very definition is to make someone see the light. The recovery community of helping people overcome addiction uses “attraction, rather than promotion.
What is the path to leading someone out of the darkness of their suffering and into the attracting light? If you can see experiences through a creative, spiritual lens, then it is easier to transcend human suffering. It’s finding a purpose for the suffering.
Service is the antidote to suffering
Viktor Frankl wrote about his time as a prisoner during the Holocaust. By a miracle, he survived the experience and went on to write a book, Man’s Search for Meaning, that has inspired millions in their personal suffering. He coped with his experience by finding a way to be of service to others in the concentration camp with him.
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us,” states Frankl in his book. “We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
The creative service you and I choose to offer others is the best response to the questions that seem to have no answers and to turn tragedy into transformation.
Copyright 2019 Brenda Henning