The World’s Answers to Suffering
For reading & meditation: Ecclesiastes 1
“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (v.18)
Today we look at the various answers – so called – which the world has offered in relation to the problem of suffering. Omar Khayyam, the poet, looked upon the world of suffering and said:
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire
Shatter it to bits – and then remould it to my heart’s desire.
His answer was to remake the world with the possibility of suffering left out. Another answer is to accept the fact of suffering and meet it with resigned anticipation. You say to yourself: “I knew it would come, I was not caught unawares, for everything I hold can be taken away.” This is the attitude of disillusioned cynicism.
Then another response is to give way to self-pity. Those who follow this method of dealing with suffering get pleasure out of feeling sorry for themselves. And many exaggerate their troubles in order to increase the possibility of gaining others’ sympathy. Yet another way is the way of stoicism. This is the attitude of accepting the fact of suffering and steeling oneself against it. I read about an Indian tribe in South America who teach their children: “You are born into a world of trouble. Shut your mouth, be quiet and bear it.” You can see how this type of thinking produces the stoical Indian. The Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, have complex answers to suffering, but they, along with the others, lack one important thing – there are no wounds that answer our wounds, no death that will answer our death. Christ and Christ alone gives us the final answer to suffering.
O God, as I move from day to day in search of an answer to the problem of unmerited suffering, I see clearly that the world has found no satisfying solution to this problem. My trust and confidence is in You. Lead on, dear Father. Amen
1. How are we to face suffering?
2. What is the assurance we have?