Pain and suffering are all around us. In the news, on the streets, and in our daily interactions, we see people everywhere suffering. One of the questions religious folks are asking is: If God truly exists, why will He allow me to go through so much pain? Why does God allow suffering? Well, let me confess that I do not think I have what it takes to defend God. But from study and observations, I can say a few things about why there are so much pain and suffering in the world.
One, the dysfunctional ego in mankind. It is believed that there is a part of our frame that has the capacity to feel, act and think. Some call it the ‘I’ in humans. Increasingly, this ‘I’ tends to get its sense of importance from what others think of it. For example, it loves to be perceived as powerful and important. For this to happen, it must exert power over others, such as forcefully taking or depriving them of what is rightfully theirs. Feeling threatened of their survival, they also fight back to show that they are not docile and stupid. This further makes the ‘I’ strengthen its resolve to prove ‘I am powerful.’ And the interesting thing is, this cycle of taking and defending can last from one generation to another, as we see in many ethnic, tribal, racial, and religious clashes. No wonder someone said, “You cannot fight the ego and win.”
Two, humans make mistakes. A mistake can be defined as “an error in action, opinion, or judgment.” Some argue that error can be a result of past programming of the mind, but the reality as long as we are humans, we will do some things we never really intended. For example, car brakes fail suddenly. (Someone says, “Well, can the brakes actually fail suddenly without a sign?”) Let’s assume there were signs, but the driver did not pay attention. Someone could be badly hurt or even killed in the process. We see manifestations of mistakes in different shades and grades daily, all around the world. And that leads to the next:
Three, suffering as a consequence of one’s actions. For every action, there are consequences. Some consequences may be immediate, such as cutting yourself with a knife; or caught for stealing and jailed. However, some other consequences manifest rather slowly and inconspicuously. In fact, without some measure of sincerity and awareness, you may not even be able to connect the action and the consequences. For example, if you pass over an opportunity, you may end up not having money, hence, suffering because of your inability to recognize the Universe seeking to meet your needs. This can be extrapolated to other areas of life such as relationships, career, parenting, leadership, etc.
Lastly, suffering is a part of a process. And we may even say, suffering is a process. Think about it: when some metallic ores are discovered, there are also some surrounding rocks that come with them. These surrounding rocks (called gangue) are of no value as far as this precious metal is concerned. But it will take fire for the purification to take place. Now, that will not come easy, both for the metal and the gangue. However, it is very crucial if the value of that metal will ever come alive.
There are billions of people out there in the world carrying pain around and causing pain to others. Pain in itself is not bad; if only we can allow it to fulfil its purpose – to expose ‘I’, hence, reducing its intensity. The ego does not like being spotted, hence, it hides under anything it can find – toys, money, power, position, titles, properties, relationships, parenting, childhood (and its behaviours), sex, attention, fashion, oppression, name it. Suffering comes to take all these away so that we can become disidentified with the things that have now come to define us.
Eckhart Tolle said in his book, A New Earth, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.”
Do not fight suffering when it comes. Rather, accept it as ‘what is’. It is in acceptance that you begin to decipher what is in you that needs to be purified by the fire of suffering. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.