On Suffering

Broken Sign
Broken walk signal and broken relationships.

"On Facebook, my friend, EL wrote this:

Does suffering need a reason? No, it does not. Although the beginning of the Book of Job gave a reason to why Job suffer, Job was never informed about this, just as God never gave an answer to all the questions He asked Job. Maybe there is a reason for our suffering, maybe there is not. Maybe instead of asking "why?", we should ask "what now?" Is there a reason for suffering? Maybe there is, maybe there is not, but does the reason really matter? Maybe there are things in the world has no answers. EL

I completely and wholeheartedly disagree. I've been trying to parse out what he wrote, trying to see if I misunderstood it, but no matter how I interpret his post, it's wrong. Dangerously wrong.

Reasons do matter.

The problem isn't whether or not there is an answer, the problem is never asking the question in the first place.

I can understand why people choose to believe this. If you or someone close to you is undergoing some unbearable pain, it makes sense to push the idea of suffering to the side and not dwell on it in order to continue with life. In short, its a coping mechanism. And sometimes, it is necessary. (To be fair, 'Everything Happens for a Reason' is a horrible phrase to say to someone who is in the midst suffering. My recommendation is just to listen, empathize, and support that person as they go through the situation. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to give them space and allow time for them to heal.) But if one builds his entire life on ignoring these questions and encourages others to ignore factors that contribute to one's own suffering or the suffering of others, it hurts everybody in the long run.

In the biblical story of Job, God did not provide the answer, but even still, there is an answer. Whether or not we can fix it (or even comprehend it) is another matter. What is wrong to ask why or how suffering exists? These types of questions are valuable question, and Job had every right to ask these questions to God. Nor do I think that God was angry at Job for asking these questions either. It may not have been the answer that Job wanted at the time, but it was what he needed.

We need pursue these ""why"" investigation as long as we don't dwell on them too long because they can cripple us from making a meaningful mark on the world.

The world sucks. There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. However, in order to grow and mature, we need to confront these problems head on and push ourselves to move forward despite how depressing and soul-crushing the world is.

Whatever religion or philosophy you have, "reducing needless suffering in the world" is a noble task, and any meaningful change needs to start with the foundational question of 'Why?'.

I'm no expert on suffering, but I've had my own fair share. Here's what I do know:

  • Suffering is multifaceted.
  • Suffering exists.
  • Suffering can be good, bad, or somewhere in between.
  • Needless suffering can be reduced but it involves the commitment andinvolvement of the entire community.

Don't ignore suffering. That's the easy way out and it hurts you and everyone around you. Don't belittle suffering either. Because its real and potentially dangerous.

Last but not least, always humbly and hopefully keep asking those big questions.

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