what is suffering?

I am sure most of you will agree that this year has already had an eventful start. With the world grieving for the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, there has also been far too much pain and suffering going on around our world and even in our own communities.  From the ongoing fear of war and terrorist attacks to an unheard and unspoken incident of bullying that leads to a child taking his life, it is so evident how broken the world we live in is.

However, more and more people are letting this brokenness pull themselves into darkness through feelings of anger, bitterness, resentment, judgement and sadness.  This downward spiral of blaming others – even God – unfortunately and devastatingly, only takes you down a path of destruction, taking you further away from the light of faith, hope and love.

But isn’t it light that overcomes darkness?

Is there anybody out there who knows and fully understands all our suffering with complete compassion that he could heal us?

The truth is, there is a rescuer and healer whom we have turned away from.  We have turned so far away that it has become a myth rather than the truth that we believe in and hold on to to overcome all evil and darkness.  

Let’s compare this to the new star wars movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” where the scene opens with the Jedis becoming a mythical existence after many years of fear and terror from the ruling of the dark force in a galaxy far, far away.  It is only when the main character Rey gets in touch with the truth of the Force, that she is able to use its power to fight against the dark force.  Although the Star Wars movie is fictional, this analogy can be used to illustrate what it is like to be in touch with the Holy Spirit.  Without it, we will live our lives not knowing who we truly are and what our purpose is.  However, once we step into our true identity in Christ, that is when we can tap into the limitless potential God can give us.

Many of us ask ourselves, why me?  Why this pain and suffering?  

Personally, I have had my own darkest moments where it was so dark and painful that ending my life seemed like the answer to my sorrow at the time.  I would cry and cry with my eyes shut so tightly because I no longer wanted to see the cruel world that I felt imprisoned in, but the pain wouldn’t go away and the feeling of loneliness was killing me.  Then in the midst of this darkness, I would start to sense a warm light as I pray, “Please God, help me…” and I would be reminded of the most powerful image of suffering – Jesus dying on the cross.

Somehow, in a supernatural way, I would start to feel peace and comfort that would reassure me that I am not alone.  And now, I am able to look back and see that all the scars from my suffering are like brushstrokes on a limitless canvas.  What I see now is a story that is being told through me and it isn’t a sad story, but a beautiful and extraordinary story of survival and victory.

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

It is also through my suffering that I feel compassion for others and I have grown to understand what it truly means to love – in fact, life is a continuing lesson of learning to love one another.

1 John 4:7-16 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

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