More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
The birth of a child is a momentous event in the life of every family and when the mother or father holds their newborn for the first time , they contemplate their baby after a 9 months patient awaiting . The mother carried the baby in her womb often with discomfort , pain and suffering .
Finally the pregnancy ends and the delivery process proceeds with controlled breathing and pushing synchronisation , the newborn sees daylight and breathes fresh air . What a wonder of God’s creation and we all have travelled this awesome path !!!. So during the stages of childbirth … suffering , peace and joy seem to be intertwined -complementary in the final outcome . Jesus uses that image as he gives us the rapture which awaits us .
Jn 16 :20-21 A woman has pain in childbirth becauseher time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. Truly, truly, I tell you, you will weep and wail while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
So Jesus opens our eyes to the Kairos moments in this abundant life of wonderful – incredible – empirical experiences , when the circle of life comes our way . This kind of process suffering precedes our peaceful expectation and ultimately the realisation of a fulfilled patience . God’s love shed abroad in our hearts empowers us to accept , harmonise and overcome all kinds of pain and suffering challenges that come across our journey.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Helen Keller, who is one of the most famous deaf people in history and is an icon to many deaf people in the world , said : Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. People who suffer physical nasty handicaps develop incredible methods so as to compete and adapt in the non-handicapped society . The paralympics games is an exceptional event where people who have suffered physically and emotionally , rise up to new heights of achievement , realisation and success .The paralympics motto shifted from “Mind, Body, Spirit” to “Spirit in Motion” in 2004 , revealing the powerful spiritual dimension of our invisible accessible infinite potential . For us Christians, the faith option that moves mountains (Mk 11:23 ), is a definite unavoidable humble direction in hope and success when we are trapped in any rut inferno .
Suffering and pain have many vicious pernicious variations paradigms but the peace of God always has the finishing touch of love , joy , peace. where desired by one and all !!! …. sadly our society has so many painful sources of suffering ..drug addiction , pornography , racism , ghettos , prejudice , corruption , poverty , exploitation , monolithic religious fundamentalism , wars et.
Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Some philosophers for example F Nietzsche place suffering at the centre of lives states ‘TO LIVE IS TO SUFFER , TO LIVE IS TO FIND MEANING IN THE SUFFERING ‘ sadly he found the meaning of suffering as a mad philosopher with mental illness..Suffering is also the main theme of an Eastern religion and it states :
1. The Truth of Suffering , 2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering . 3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering .
The eradication of suffering as a commitment in life can be compared to the eradication of thorns on the fragrant Rose Flower plant . Do we have blooming roses on thornless plants ? May be there are already such thornless rose plants in laboratories with the genetic modification horticulturalists … but the normal rose plant is thornful and brings loving fresh fragrance always . So likewise peace coupled with pain and suffering is a paradoxical reality of real life .
Suffering with painful sickness is another major dilemma we all face ..cancer , heart attack , cerebro-vascular accident , diabetes etc., are the common medical challenges our fragile bodies have to endure.
In 2017 , ”The World Health Organisation announced that Millions of people are suffering and dying prematurely because their cancer has not been detected swiftly enough.The organisation is calling for efforts to be stepped up to catch the disease earlier. WHO wants to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients by ensuring health services focus on prompt diagnosis and treatment of the disease. ”
The extending of our earthly presence with all the medical scientific progress is rife and existentially very rewarding as our tourist – pilgrim mode is extended . But with it has also been birthed euthanasia which is another ethical dilemma. Medically induced suicide and at other times switching off the life preserving machinery .
All life is holy and precious and the bodily death is immutable and ineradicable . A time to live and a time to die. Eccles. 3 …
The subject of suffering and pain coupled with the divine peace that overflows in us has recurring questions of clarification . Some people will ask ‘ why does a good God allow evil and suffering ? ‘ This is a good question ! And I can also respond and add ” why does my Good awesome God allow his magnificent PEACE to couple & intertwine with my pain and suffering and continually care lovingly for me .??? ” . A theodicy is an attempt to explain why a good god would have created evil and suffering. The most popular defence is that it is so Humans could have free will. However the entire universe and the natural world is filled with suffering, violence and destruction so any Humanity-centric explanation does not seem to work.
Bishop Festo Kivengere of Uganda states : ‘ Peace is not automatic. It is a gift of the grace of God . It comes when hearts are exposed to the love of Christ. But this always costs something . For the love of Christ was demonstrated through suffering and those who experience that love can never put it into practice without some cost . ‘ Suffering is thus part and parcel of the peace integration process , with love as the lubricant that will catalyse swiftly the whole machinery . When we love with the love of the Lord , the peace that surpasses all understanding soften the pain and suffering , and all becomes bearable .
Someone asked me a very tricky question after my CVA sever stroke …” How can a good God give you a Bishop , man of God such a severe stroke resulting in a hemiplegic body ? ” and my answer was ..” I am called to be a Bishop as a spiritual leader but I can be sick just like any human being who is part of the natural ecological creation. Being a Bishop does not exempt me from any sickness and I will die like everyone .. in due time .
Still, I believe God is my Healer and I put my trust in him by faith . ”Ex 15 :26
The story of Job the Prophet reminds us that God is Sovereign and we are frail mortals capable of dialoguing and reasoning with a mysterious , merciful loving God amidst all the pain and suffering encountered . We are allowed to be angry and keep our integrity ,however in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,.. so we can be true to our emotions , feelings and moods as we converse and pray to God .
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Loving Father , through the gift of your Holy Spirit, when in pain and suffering in the eye of a cyclone/ hurricane , you fill us with an indomitable spirit of peace , praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue. Lord Jesus Christ , Grant me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving in all humility for your glory. May I witness to those around me , even when in utter pain and suffering because: ” the joy of the of the Lord is my strength ” in all circumstances as declares Prophet Nehemiah 8:10.
+ Roger Chung Jaomalaza, Former Bishop of Madagascar