Suffering as an Advantage

The world has already gone leaps and bounds of advancement in technology. It has already provided a superfluity of progression in science, in medical science more expressly. It has claimed to be developed in many ways than one. With all these and more, there is still one question that humanity has yet to answer – Why is there still suffering in the world? Technology could be tight-lipped. Science could go on grasping for solutions but would always just turn pale. Every person goes belly up before this problematical mystery. In fact, even the brightest mind would fall short in explanation of the existence of everyone’s painful travail – the suffering.

Suffering is but just normal, the twin-sister of human life. There is suffering on account of humanity’s imperfections. As a created being, the human person can only think so much, can only do so much and can only achieve that much. Hence, frustration creeps in. Suffering surfaces too owing to the very mistakes that a human person is wont to commit. In this sense, pain could be self-inflicted, directly or indirectly at that. Cancer of the lungs due to smoking must necessarily be seen as self-inflicted. Family break-up caused by serial philandering is downright self-inflection which unfortunately damages others even the innocent family members. Punishment in consequence of dishonesty of a student during examination must be judged as self-inflicted as well. Likewise, suffering mounts up courtesy of other people. It is irrefutable that others would simple make life miserable for you that you would suspect whether they were really born just to hate you. They may appear as genteel but they may actually be a bully, a basher or just being bitter at you. With all these (there could be more), it is rather patent to claim that life suffering is as old as the human race.

Lest we turn out to be somewhat morbid here, we claim just the same that the other side of suffering is meaning. Every kind of suffering has a purpose. And so, in the midst of suffering the more significant question to ask is “what for?” instead of “why?”. Thus, an awful sickness could actually be for a person to mend his unhealthy lifestyle. An embarrassing setback could in reality be a lesson-learned for a more well-off opportunities to a greener pasture. A distressing breakup could in fact be a sort of preparation for a more mature and fulfilling relationship. We can bear in mind then that “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” Or, it could also be that “blessing in disguise” thing. The Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor named Victor Frankly says matter-of-factly: “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life… without suffering life cannot be complete.” (Man’s Search for Meaning)

Moreover, the undisputed (read: supreme) meaning of suffering is no other than love. The human person is able to suffer because of love. Love is that sustaining vitality in the face of anguish. Love endures amidst life’s uncertainties. In effect, the truest test of love is through suffering. Or, genuine love can only be manifested in the tenderness of loving. Conversely, any kind of suffering devoid of loving is deemed empty, useless. If suffering is the twin sister of human life, love is bosom buddy to suffering.

Once, a young mother hurriedly approached me for a counselling. I was sort of disinclined to give her time since I was on my way then to another appointment. At her insistence, after having sensed her woes myself, I obliged that we be seated for a while. This unforeseen encounter could turn out to be one of a kind instance of inspiration on love and suffering.

“It’s about my husband, Father,” she started off telling me. She confided about how she discovered her husband to be exchanging amorous messages with another woman. She went on and on with the story between sobs and sighs. Heartbreaking is an understatement to describe how this young mother felt. She pained the most because she has loved the most, yet suffering came her way through harrowing betrayal. Before long, she asked me, “Will I still forgive him, Father?”…. “Will I still give him another chance?” I did not utter a word for an answer. I had the intuition that her questions are answers themselves. The yearnings of her aching heart are observable– forgiveness and another chance. Towards the end, she also told me, “Father, for the sake of our children, I am forgiving him.” She added too, “For the sake of our family, I am willing to give another chance… I may be hurting but I do love my family.”

Above and beyond, suffering must be held on as an advantage. It is the way to life’s meaning and sweetness. It is the condition to demonstrate selfless love. It is a true test to a one’s genuine strength of character. At times, suffering makes the impossible actually doable. It was what made Erwin Macua, the security guard from Cebu, finished schooling at aged 38 years old. Erwin had to juggle as security guard, as student, and being a father to three children. What is more for this security who has been working for almost twenty years in the same school where he got his college diploma is that he was able to graduate as cum laude. Without a doubt, suffering has paid off for this determined security guard. His suffering paved the way for his eventual success in life. Interestingly, Erwin’s feat has made his loved ones even more pleased. At the graduation rite, where his entire family was in attendance, his mother, 60-year-old Aproniana, who travelled all the way from their hometown in Trinidad, Bohol, held back tears as she watched her eldest son with the rest of the graduates. What else could be sweeter than this kind of achievement?

The two real-life stories abovementioned are in point of fact as the story of Jesus as well. Before a woman of ill-repute, He said, “I tell you, her sins, many though they are, are forgiven, because she loved much…” (Luke 7:44-47). He also gave a chance to the woman caught in adultery, “Didn’t even one of them condemn you? … Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11). Above all, though no fault of his own, it is by His agony that He saved us. By His wounds we were healed. By the cross that He has redeemed the world. Through His suffering, we have received the greatest blessing – our salvation. Truly, our advantage.

Semana Santa is here. It is all about suffering. Have a good one.

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