Thoughts on Suffering
When you find yourself in your own personal groundhog day...
I know a number of deeply spiritual people who have been suffering profoundly over the last couple years. I could name myself among them a few years earlier. I’ve been observing for some time, now that I am out of my own dark night, and I don’t see the same struggles in the lives of those who’ve not chosen a spiritual path.
Is it a coincidence? Maybe. But I don’t think so. And I’m not saying non-spiritual people don’t go through hardship. I just haven’t witnessed the same prolonged, mind-bending, traumatic suffering I’ve seen in the spiritual people I know.
I’m not sure what that means, but I’ve been reflecting on it of late.
Why are things so difficult for us after we’ve chosen to let God/ Spirit enter and direct our lives? (Yes, I am of the mind that it has to be a conscious, voluntary choice, not once, but over and over in our lives.)
So I’ve been reflecting and wanted to share some of that. My reflections are rooted in Christian and A Course in Miracles terminology and references, because these are my faith background. But they are not meant to be exclusive and can be applied to other faith journeys equally.
The “Sin” Argument
Some people tell us such suffering is because we are 'sinning' in some area of our life (like there is ever a person who does not sin in some way in some area of their lives) and suffering is the punishment for that sinfulness.
However, these people seem to have missed the memo that the meaning of the word used for sin in the New Testament (Hamartia, or ἁμαρτία in Greek) is actually an archery term for “missing the mark.” Likewise, the Hebrew word for "sin" (Old Testament) is חטאה (hhatah, Strong's #2403) and aslo translates as "miss the mark."
Still, people like to argue the meaning of sin so let’s look at how Jesus handled judgement and sin. We have a story wherein he is teaching and a group of believers bring a woman caught in sin before him to get his direction about stoning her to death, as was the custom at the time for her specific sin (adultery). Jesus queitly instructed them that he among them who was without sin could throw the first stone. They all left, one by one. Not one was left fit to pass judgement. Even he did not. He simply instructed her to go and do better with her life.
Are we to believe then, that God, unlike Jesus, sends suffering to the spiritual among us as punishment for the mistakes in our lives? This explanation doesn’t jive for me.
The “See There is No God Argument”
Other people will use these circumstances to try to convince us it's because God/ Spirit is not real. “Where is God in all of this? You are a believer, why hasn’t s/he rescued you? See, God doesn’t answer prayers. It’s clearly not real, after all.”
Or worse, we do this to ourselves. But is our suffering evidence that the spiritual path is moot? Or is it actually evidence that it is very, very real?
In Christian scripture, when Jesus was led out into the desert to be tested he had just been baptized. He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit was observed to have descended on him in the form of a dove with loving approval from God, then BOOM Shakalaka! Shit goes down! We are told the Holy Spirit led him to a place where he was isolated, then tempted by the forces of evil.
Commitment, WHAMMO, spiritual test. Hmmmmm…..
If we’re on a spiritual path, I think from this passage and my own observations, we can expect spiritual testing when we get serious about our faith.
So Faith = Suffering?
Does that necessarily mean deepening faith leads to suffering then? I don’t think so. But I think it does indicate that deepening faith/ self awareness leads us to increasing challenges and conflict with the world we live in. As we become more aware of ethics and impact on a deeper level, we intrinsically face more complex choices.
To what degree are we responsible for others and our impact on them? To what degree are we responsible for our impact on other creatures and the environment? How do we navigate that in good conscience while also balancing our need to work and survive in a very consumptive and unconscious world?
Maybe the pain is not necessary with these events except that we don’t learn the spiritual lessons sent to us the first time. And so we continue on a path of increasing suffering until we accept and download the lesson the universe has for us, and integrate it into our psyche, where it can change our course and our character and path.
Think about it. How many times have you thought to yourself, “Again? Really? This shit again?!@“
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