Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Life of Suffering

This is the subject of a post I've been working on for a long time and just haven't finished yet, but my friend Nicole wrote a pretty remarkable piece today that moved me to go on and put something down even if it's not complete.

The question is: if there is a God, why would God allow suffering, really horrible, pitiful suffering, worse than most of us can't even imagine?

The atheists have an answer: they say it's all random; good and bad happen randomly and there is nothing more to it. It's tempting to believe their answer, but random can't exist mathematically, so there has to be another explanation.

That puts the ball back in the court of the believers.

Perhaps the answer lies in perspective. In this human form our perspective is so very limited. We are so bound by these pitifully weak bodies, by time, by space, by gravity, by physical needs, by fear, by doubt, that it's very difficult for us to see suffering for what it truly is.

Consider this: all suffering, no matter how horrible, no matter how long lasting, is only temporary. Even if suffering ends in a tragic senseless death, it still ends. We all have suffering, even though some of us seem to have more than their share, and all suffering ends.

Love, however, is eternal. There are people who died forty years ago that I love as much today as I did the day they died. Millions of people love Jesus, a man they never knew, who lived in a place they've never been, and died almost two thousand years ago. Love supersedes death. It is perhaps the only thing we know that truly does.

God created us out of love many thousands of years ago. There has been an unimaginable amount of suffering since then, but all that suffering, all the wars, the disease, the failure, the crime, the evil that men do, it is all gone now, yet the love remains, we remain.

This boy may not have had love in his home in the brief time he was there, but, just like Nicole with her writing, many thousands of people have loved him since, and now his suffering is over and he has God's love forever.

I can't tell you why God allows suffering, perhaps it's just unavoidable in these imperfect bodies, but, a physical life of suffering is unimaginably brief when compared to an eternal spiritual life of love.

These bodies are pitiful. They're weak, they don't last very long and they make us vulnerable to an endless variety of suffering, but they are not us. We are eternal and when we shed our physical bodies we shed all the suffering that goes with them.

So yes, there is suffering, but it's not the end of the story. If we could see our true lives, our true spirits then we would know that suffering is but a brief moment that passes and is gone forever and forever is a very long time.


~J~ said...

Hi, Boyd. I'm Janet otherwise you know me from Facebook as Elphaba Thropp.

I'm a Pagan, so my view of death and suffering is a little different I guess. I have 5 kids, number 6 is due in the spring. So yes the story of this little boy hurt me to hear about.

I believe in reincarnation, I believe in Karma. I don't think people realize that where children suffering or dying is concerned, what do you learn from it? Maybe people without kids learn to be nicer to little people and realize despite the fact that they're people too, children are very much at the whim of whose care they're in. Maybe some of us with kids realize we could have more patience with our own children and we spend a little extra time with them. This would mean if there's something to be learned from it, the suffering wasn't in vain.

How many times have we had things go badly or had to endure pain, humiliation and the like and we cone out of it stronger with attributes we didn't know we had? What do we learn from the suffering of others that makes us want to be better people or change our corner of the world to the positive?

Just my 2 cents. By the way, I enjoy your writing. :) Sorry if I spelled anything wrong. It's 5 in the morning and I'm on my phone, LOL. Take care.

~J~ said...

COME out of it stronger....see what I mean? LOL

A. Boyd C. said...

Hiya Janet!

Even without the trappings of Christianity, I think the theory still works so long as you believe that our true selves exists beyond this physical body.

It's not that I think suffering means nothing, (it obviously means something!) but it loses its sense of cruelty and injustice when viewed from a perspective of an eternal life rather than a brief physical one.

I wonder if "karma" and the concept of "christian love" aren't different terms trying to describe the same thing. Something we can't really understand yet, but an energy pushing us toward something, something good.

Obviously this little boy's karma is pushed way to the good side because of his senseless suffering, in the same way that there's been this huge outflow of love toward him when people heard the news of what happened to him.

Either way, his suffering has created something good, and if you believe he still exists in some, non-physical way, then he's the beneficiary of that goodness, as are we.

~J~ said...

I know a really sweet lady out in AZ who once told me there's no such thing as a true atheist. Her reasoning is that everyone believes in something.

I think the little boy simply had to meet a Karmic requirement to live the life of a severely abused child and he wasn't meant to be here long but he was meant to leave a big impact in his short life. I'm glad the end result was such an outpouring of love....frankly I lose hope in the human race sometimes and despite the tradgedy (because I'd rather see people get together in a positive way with guitars and songs in their hearts...hippie in me I guess, lol), my hope is restored in that we aren't entirely consumed with greed, etc., and we CAN come together for a united cause that's positive.

If you think about it, most religions say the same things with different words...maybe you should start a series of dictionaries so the more, um...militant among the crowds can get that. ;)

~J~ said...

Your view on things being temporary is very Buddhist, by the way. Has anyone ever told you that?