Our human nature resists the whole concept of suffering. If there is a God worth calling God, why would the innocent and good have to suffer?
If this life is all there is, then there really doesn’t appear to be any reasonable answer to that.
And in my own experience, the more people I let myself care about, never-the-less love, the more I open myself to suffering. How much more would I suffer if I truly loved, or even just cared moderately about all humanity, all animals, perhaps even all creation?
Part of the mystery of suffering is that it seems to be part and parcel of loving. Loving involves being willing to suffer for another and others. Most of us have trouble loving even one person that we choose for a lifetime and sure don’t want to even consider loving people that look or think very differently than we do.
The Jews longed for a Messiah, a Savior, for literally thousands of years. Have you ever wondered why a close friend, a follower who witnessed the miracles, the power, and the kindness of Jesus would betray him to the point of giving him over to suffer and die. What brought Judas to that kind of hatred?
The shattered expectation that the Messiah would save the Jews, God’s chosen people, from suffering. Judas witnessed the reality of the power Jesus had, but more and more he saw Jesus using it to save the enemy. And unlike optimistic Peter, he heard what Jesus was beginning to say about his own coming suffering, even dying, instead of freeing them from the tyranny of Rome , the impoverishment of Roman taxes, the constant threat of their children becoming random victims of a ruler’s whim. Judas wanted a triumphant King, not a suffering servant. Disillusionment turned hope into bitterness and hate.
What kind of love was choosing to die rather than to save God’s chosen people?
We still struggle with that question.
Without the resurrection, surely we would all endorse the survival of the fittest at the expense of the vulnerable. If we believed this life is all there is, would we respond to the call to pick up our cross and follow Jesus? We saw where that led Jesus. It led him through the acceptance of the refining of suffering, the acceptance of humbling helplessness and the crushing feeling of abandonment, even finally through the gate of death itself and only then to resurrection.
The reality is that life is made up of cycles of struggling with suffering until we can accept the deaths of our idols and illusions, the things we cling to out of fear, and only then can we be reborn freer to love each time. Only then do we grow better at loving other imperfect people up close and personal and to care about even the lepers, the hostile, the foreign, the frightening, and the lost.
Life’s natural process includes loss, helplessness, letting go, experiencing the peace of acceptance, then the rebirth of gratitude and humility that leads to love, joy and fruitfulness.
Passion, death, and resurrection should be one process word.
I once was a nauseatingly bubbly, outgoing, optimistic, like and help everyone type of person. I thought I was beautiful, generous, kind, humorous, honest and intelligent. It turned out that I was delusional about myself and criminally naive about other people and the world.
Somewhere in my fifties, I flipped.
I began to realize: that I was often a difficult person for those closest to me, that I was intelligent about theories, but had zero common sense, and that no one is so intelligent that they are right all the time. I found that rescuing people often reinforced their lifelong behavior of making poor choices. I began to notice that my humor usually had a victim. I sadly faced that I was a bottomless pit of needs and wants in my relationship with my husband and that my neediness stunted my ability to love. And I finally admitted that our American ideal of beauty has an expiration date and I was past it.
But other than these, I was an Okay person, because I wasn’t finished yet. 🙂
In the ensuing twenty plus years I have moved toward the middle by accepting being a reasonably tidy looking person, having a sense of humor about getting old and being human, being not only a person who has some valuable flashes of insight, but one who can be practical (at least when it’s absolutely necessary), someone capable of understanding, loving and actually making sacrifices for the people that I find myself unable to like because of totally disagreeing with them. I’m still into helping others – but I have admitted that I can’t save them and that helping others has the perk of making me feel better about myself. I am finally accepting the reality that though most people need a helping hand sometimes, it’s often important to allow others the chance to learn from suffering the consequences of their chronic bad choices. I have quit emotional garbage dumping on my husband and love him enough to now test the dubious leftovers in the fridge on myself, instead of him. And an almost fair amount of the time I do the necessary boring stuff I hate, though sometimes I just say “to hell with it” and stay up all night reading a spy novel and sleep all morning. While, I don’t idealize myself anymore, I both accept and value myself as the imperfect, sometimes downright weird, unfinished human being that I am, while still working to stay open to the challenge of changing when the need becomes obvious.
When my husband and I are watching the news together and it triggers one of those downward spirals of starting to focus on all the terrible people and things in the world, now one or the other of us will bring it to a halt by saying loudly and very irately, “It’s a terrible world, filled with terrible people!” and then we will laugh at ourselves and even at our pitifully flawed unfinished world.
Life is not about perfection. It’s about the life long challenge to develop paradoxical, but reasonable and practical balances between polarities.
But most of all, life is about persevering.