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       What would happen in life if there were no opposing forces and no pain? What would human existence be like without pain? Verily, pain brings on realization and fulfillment for its main functions are to abolish: the extraordinary indifference; the "unthought" through thinking; the unseeing beyond one's own cerebral inventions or ideations; to abolish the pseudo-knowledge and pseudo-love; it is to promote faithfulness, consideration, love and realness in our lives. It is to make human beings unwilling to resign from humanity for worldly possessions, worldly success and gratification of solely self-seeking needs. Pain, as authentic love maintains the dynamics of human existence for if there were no pain, no obstacles, no oppression, no injustices, no opposing forces and no conflict, there would be no possibility of growing spiritually or "becoming" and the entire human existence would be suspended into apathy, impassiveness or irresolution. Through sufferings God "gives meaning to what may appear meaningless." 

       Again, in the Christian perspective the validity of suffering is, in general, interpreted through evil, through its unrelatedness to good and undervaluation and diminution of what is most credible and spiritually advantageous. In Christian perspective sufferers are those who deprived themselves by their own act and freedom of choosing to be partakers of the truth and of love or to be sharers of what is surpassing all else in excellence and quality - what is most desirable eternally. The Christian not only knows that whatever the crosses might be, they were designed for sanctification alone or human ultimate victory, but also that it is impossible to remain a Christian by separating him/herself from others or evince lovelessness and obliviousness to the pain of others since posture like this augments disservice, affliction and injuriousness in the world. Christians know that it is the highest privilege to be a loyal soldier of Christ (2 Tim. 2:3) and take part in His suffering, and that all possible crosses were entrusted to everyone, as means or vehicles to raise the entire humanity up beyond the considerations of the flesh; even beyond the level of imagination and thought - to elevate all to the level of existence solely according to the order of the Spirit. It is infinitely better to experience the most difficult sufferings than to remain uninstructed and unaware, and still more consequentially not to trust and not to know truly love. It is far more preferred - far more superior to endure anything than to stay in chaos, incessantly question and ponder in confusion, which offers greater detriment and torture to the soul than the sufferings as a result of which that what is potentially knowable or what is true is ultimately discovered and known. And, "...IT IS BETTER TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD, IF THIS SHOULD BE GOD'S WILL, THAN FOR DOING EVIL" (1 Peter, 3:17); for as Saint Peter explicates: "God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no one ever heard a lie come from his lips. When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge" (1 Peter, 2:19-23). It is far better to suffer for truth than to suffer for illusion. It is far superior to suffer for love, out of love or in order to guard love than suffer for detestation, virulence or animosities. Yet, in all sufferings that we bring upon ourselves (because of our sinfulness), there is really no merit for true sufferings are a gift from God, and yet every form of suffering has to be viewed as virtue opportunity. Every piece of puzzle that painfully mystifies humanity, all sufferings: those that are gifts from God and those that we bring upon ourselves can be turned into victory. Some sufferings are indeed Paternal correctives, still all sufferings have as a purpose the rediscovery and reestablishment of goodness in the sufferer; to generate powerful changes in his/her interior life; to regain incorruptibility. They need to be regarded as "an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man, his spiritual maturity," as the opportunity for attaining moral strength since it is not necessarily important what can be suffered but how it is suffered. There is an entelechy of suffering, that is, suffering must be changed into spiritual energy, and thus be viewed as vital force that directs the human heart toward divinely designed fulfillment.

       God, simplistically put, is never "thrown at anyone" without a costly price to be paid, and indeed God grants boundless rewards not so much for the various successes of our work but rather for the efforts and sufferings endured. In Jesus' own words: "It is not for the success of a work, but for the sufferings that I give reward" (Divine Mercy..., p. 45). Gandhi's words echo those of Jesus: "Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself" (The Words of Gandhi, p. 13). Sufferings endured calmly, humbly and faithfully possess greater merit than our finest works. Put succinctly, the greatness of the soul, as Jesus revealed to saints, consists of loving God (i.e., by enduring everything for Him), and of humility. Thus, Tournier concluded: "I take care not to take a success as the mark of genuine direction by God. That would involve a childish view of the Christian life, from which the Cross had been eliminated" (Guilt and Grace, p. 170). No one shall be able to be perfected if he or she is willing to bear only fair or "reasonable crosses." Saint Francis de Sales once asked pointedly: "...as to prayer, which is better - to be on the cross with Christ or standing at the foot of the cross contemplating His sufferings?" (op. cit., Spiritual Diary, p. 90). Saint Paul writes that "...the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us," (2 Cor. 1:5) - meaning that through their voluntary and unconstrained suffering endured in the spirit of self-sacrificial love, Christians join Christ's sufferings in His salvational work for all, contributing therefore to the crescendo of love - its steady augmentation - its intensity and its potency. Sharing in the sufferings of Christ is identical with suffering for the kingdom of God, and for this reason becoming also worthy of the kingdom of God. "We ourselves boast of you... for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering" (2 Thes. 1:4-5). Hence, Dostojevski once said: "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings."

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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