Does suffering has a value?

To get this out of the way: I happen to be a God-believer. I am neither agnostic (whatever that’s supposed to be (whatever that is) or an atheist. I truly believe there is a God out there, and I believe that I’m not him.  To the disconsolation of friends and acquaintances who practice specific faiths, I accept that there are lots of versions of a God (or Higher Power). I’ve tried several of them in both sickness and health. Belief works only if your focus is on something that is not you. Having said that much, let’s just disenengage  from comments like “You’re doing it wrong” or “You have to pray to the one True God.” Sorry, people.

That said….

There may be one God but there are many ways to seek him.There are treatises, dissertations, religious writings that attempt to justify suffering in the world. Suffering that can be of the soul or of the body. It seems to be a big deal in both Christian and Buddhist philosophy, particularly, that in some way that is difficult to discern, suffering brings us closer to God on the path to some form of Enlightenment or even ultimate Redemption.

If that works for you, if it comforts you, I give you much joy of your belief. If you believe suffering of the body is good for your soul, more power to you.

For me…I find the very concept of suffering as a good to be meretricious and vicious. In other words, I suggest that it’s bullshit. That’s me, where I sit. What value?

I’m not talking here about why God permitted unspeakable historical events like the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, or the horrors of Cambodia/Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge. I’m talking about why God permits individual human beings to suffer torments to their bodies or souls.

I want to know why God invites and encourages us to reject him. But I also want to know why and how there are people who endure immense suffering of mind and body but who continue to still believe in God’s mercy when none is to be found. What creates a Thérèse of Lisieux or a Bernadette of Lourdes? After watching Martin Scorsese’s incredible film Silence, I need to know what belief allows the religious to suffer martydom at the hands of enemies. I need to know how a man or woman of formerly deep faith can follow the injunction of Job’s wife, to “curse God and die,” or become an apostate. No, I don’t ask for much, do I? I just want to know everything. I want to know how studying their lives and deaths can benefit me at times of terrible personal need.

As I face tomorrow with anticipation and alarm–a spinal procedure that may lessen my mounting agony since early 2011–I want to believe that the outcome, regardless of what it is, will benefit me in ways I can’t possibly foresee.

I want to be well again. But I want to understand that wellness is of both the body and the spirit. I need to accept the various meanings of sickness and health. I want to know through understanding the nature of Hope.


About Ken Wolman

Sit still, shut up, and listen. We might both learn something.
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