You Must Suffer

From what I see in the scriptures we're taught to deal with suffering by looking for the good that God can bring through it.

There's enough trouble and suffering comes our way without having to look for it. A lot we can't avoid, so there is the proper Christian attitude about it.

Nevertheless, it's not something to be enjoyed--that would be perverse, I think. But certainly we can appreciate the good that comes out of it if we persevere. It makes suffering transformational, for which we can rejoice.

Also God disciplines us, as his children. It seems to overlap with suffering at times, because when I was a boy and my father disciplined me, it seemed like suffering. But then, I knew I deserved it, whereas suffering isn't quite that.
 
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presidentcarter

Ostrich
Gold Member
Lately I've prayed daily for relief from suffering. I always also pray that I receive this relief only if it is in accordance with His plan.

While suffering has brought me closer to God than ever before, maybe I need more of it for my own spiritual good - but that is a hard thing to say when every day feels like torture.

I pray that he relieve my suffering, so that I may have the strength and vigor to lead others to Him. It's hard for me to serve as a witness from bed. But then again what do I know - I know nothing of His plan and it's all in His hands.

The single most important thing for me now, and I believe for anyone suffering, is to remain faithful. Truly there would be nothing more terrifying than staring into the dark abyss of the unknown without faith to carry you through.

While remaining faithful, I do believe it is my (all Christian's) duty to fight for their life. Keep their strength up, be wiling to undergo surgeries and therapies to a certain extent, and to not roll over so easily. I think this is also a form of faith - because how can you expect anything from God when you yourself aren't willing to do your part? I could be wrong on this and welcome any relevant scripture references.

As Roosh has said many times for many years, one step at a time - one day at a time.
 

Viktor Zeegelaar

Pelican
Orthodox Inquirer
One of the ways I'd become alienated from protestantism long before I encountered Orthodoxy was that they had no real theology of suffering. I didn't go to "prosperity gospel" preaching churches, but the general push, whether explicit or implicit, was always God Has An Amazing Plan For Your Life To Make You Happy. To marry the perfect beautiful person, to get a great job and house, and so on. All positive, uplifting messages. Great material for getting butts in the seats.

But what about when Real Life happens? When inevitable heartache, loss, and disappointment comes? They always struggled to give some sort of consolation, perhaps because so much of contemporary evangelicalism is a reaction to the dour Turn Or Burn fire-and-brimstone sermons that tried to scare you into Christian faith, popular for many decades (if not centuries.) Both extremes are in error. I wonder if many who have left Christianity in modern times did so because real life didn't line up with the rosy narrative they were sold. They ran face-first into suffering, and their tradition had no answer for it. Either their pastor shrugged, or maybe they were told wait until you die and sit on a fluffy cloud in Heaven where it'll all be okay.

This is what's so refreshing about Orthodoxy. Spiritual struggle is emphasized from day one. You will be attacked by demons. You will wrestle with your passions and fall flat on your face. You will grow, but only with great effort driven by thirst for God. The lives of Saints are filled with those who suffered for their faith. And of course, all of this is much more consonant with Scripture than the feel-good message of pop Christianity. You aren't told to avoid suffering, but to brace for it and prepare yourself spiritually so that you can be enriched by it rather than lash out against God and grow distant when things don't go your way.

You probably won't become rich, or successful, or popular, but you can be transformed, starting right now, in this life, into who you will be for eternity, someone whose life can reflect the same divine energy that shone through St. John the Theologian, or St. John Chrysostom, St. Photini, St. Seraphim of Sarov, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Elder Ephraim, and so on. Isn't that of infinitely more value - riches of the soul that no thief, no persecution can take away - than the bowl of cold porridge The World offers us instead?
Makes me think of the term ''word of faith'' and ''prosperity theology'' I encountered yesterday in the context of Kenneth Coleman. I browsed his wiki and found he had a net worth of 300 to 700 million dollar and 5 private jets. Sadly much of protestantism is a product nowadays. The world is marketed, which is direct opposition to the word of God.

In regard to the not finding the solution for suffering in the protestant church and leaving to become secular, that's interesting for in my own experience secularism has 0.0 to offer to counter drugs besides alcohol, drugs and screen distraction. I can very much understand your point though and agree that Orthodoxy on this point (as so often) undoubtedly is closest to the truth. I still go through suffering but eventually all puts me in the next lane towards wherever it's heading. That's no positivity talk or vague ''God has a plan'' for you have to understand your suffering and learn from it. Positivity is a rather hollow secular expression along with the biggest scam happiness. Eventually for some reason God does put us on a certain road, like we are here all together pursuing the truth, and no one of us wouldn't be here were it without suffering.
 

Viktor Zeegelaar

Pelican
Orthodox Inquirer
Lately I've prayed daily for relief from suffering. I always also pray that I receive this relief only if it is in accordance with His plan.

While suffering has brought me closer to God than ever before, maybe I need more of it for my own spiritual good - but that is a hard thing to say when every day feels like torture.

I pray that he relieve my suffering, so that I may have the strength and vigor to lead others to Him. It's hard for me to serve as a witness from bed. But then again what do I know - I know nothing of His plan and it's all in His hands.

The single most important thing for me now, and I believe for anyone suffering, is to remain faithful. Truly there would be nothing more terrifying than staring into the dark abyss of the unknown without faith to carry you through.

While remaining faithful, I do believe it is my (all Christian's) duty to fight for their life. Keep their strength up, be wiling to undergo surgeries and therapies to a certain extent, and to not roll over so easily. I think this is also a form of faith - because how can you expect anything from God when you yourself aren't willing to do your part? I could be wrong on this and welcome any relevant scripture references.

As Roosh has said many times for many years, one step at a time - one day at a time.
I think suffering is meant by God to make you understand that you have your hand on the stove. If you don't suffer you won't notice and lose your arm, if you notice you can save it. In order to reduce suffering we have to change thoughts and habits. If suffering is the only way to change these thoughts and habits and that is in our greater good, although we may see it only over time, it is a gift and not a weight. And let's be honest, what percentage of our suffering comes from our secular/sinful lifestyles? If it weren't for that we would have psychological peace, much less psychological suffering than we have now. Psychological suffering is paramount now compared to physical suffering and material suffering, which were the main sufferings in days gone by. With a peaceful state of mind and none to little psychological suffering one can get sick, but the foundation and understanding that that is probably what you need and will benefit you either way presumably will make the suffering way less worse. If one in psychological suffering gets into physical suffering and there is no Godly foundation he will resist the suffering which will make it worse and increase both the psychological and physical suffering.
 

DeanW

Chicken
Great article. I am not entirely on board though. I have suffered with mild to moderate asthma my whole life. And it is with good care I am pretty much symptom free. Without proper breathing, I would not be able to express my free will. I would be cooped up inside doing nothing really. It has kept me from, at least in part, taking on responsibility. I split suffering into to two categories. Necessary suffering and unnecessary suffering. The goal of good people to is work to reduce necessary suffering for ourselves and others. Just think in the past how many people starved to death. And other people learned to help the starving people. Starvation has been pretty much necessary suffering through out time, but as people grow and take on responsibility, much less starvation is the result. Should we not eat, and cause unnecessary suffering unto ourselves? No. What the truth seems to be for us, God does not want us to engage in unnecessary suffering. We are to speak truth, do what is right and take on responsibility. And part of that responsibility is to keep ourselves strong and healthy as best we can, not so we can just live longer, but so we can take on the challenges bestowed upon us.
 

Blade Runner

Ostrich
Orthodox
One must also consider that people who don't have physical suffering (in the sense of physical pain) can undergo mental or spiritual suffering in the way they understand the world, when they see humans defacing their image, which is the image of God, hurting others, and falling prey to the works of the evil one. It sounds haughty but there are all types of suffering including this one that most debased people don't consider, since they usually believe all people have a similar self centered mindset as they. What's more, and it is a speculation but I agree with Fr. Rose, the suffering of the end times will be far more psychological and spiritual than it will be a worry of hunger and torture, like most probably think.
 

SoCal9705

Pigeon
Originally posted on RooshV.com

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One of the most difficult topics concerning Christianity is suffering. Lord Jesus Christ called us to pick up and carry our cross while not being of the world, but how much suffering is too much? Should we attempt to alleviate our suffering or embrace it? From my short two-year walk with Christ, I have noticed that experiencing any kind of suffering seems to increase my faith rather than decrease it. Therefore I must conclude that suffering is a gift from God to preserve our salvation.

The first “gotcha” question that atheists usually demand of believers is “Why does God allow suffering?” Their hearts are too hard to understand the answer: because He loves us. Without suffering, we would remain attached to the fallen world and its false idols, never turning away from the neon lights and sensual music to work on our salvation, because it’s only in pain do we start contemplating the big questions of our existence. In the Orthodox Church, one saint has taught that illnesses like cancer which kill you slowly are a gift from God. It removes a person from the world and gives them ample time to serve God in a way that they didn’t before the illness. This explanation does not satisfy the atheist, agnostic, or lukewarm Christian, because they believe the point of this temporal life is to experience pleasure and happiness. Anything that conflicts with that notion will be rejected; they will turn away from you in anger and seek the comfort and benefits that Satan promises them in the here and now, and eventually subject their bodies to all manner of medical tortures to “enjoy” their “one” life.

Even devout Christians require suffering to maintain their faith, because they can easily be tempted and deceived by the evil one upon moments of worldly luck or strength. May I be so bold to say that they need constant suffering, at least at a low level, because a prolonged period of material benefits, without health or money problems, for example, will have a corroding effect on their faith. In many Orthodox monasteries, the monks store and view skulls of dead monks to remind them of death. For us, we need to be inflicted with continual pain, or else we forget that one day, we too will die.

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Since my early twenties, I have had heart palpitations. Many nights I have awoken in terror to a thumping chest. In the past few years, the problem has gotten worse, to the point where it’s a daily presence in my life. Like most others with this issue, cardiologists have said they could find nothing wrong with the workings of my heart. I have tried various natural supplements and diet changes, and while they’ve allowed me to manage the problem, causing mostly mental affliction than physical, the sensitivity of my heart and the feeling of its struggle to maintain a normal rhythm is a constant reminder that I will certainly die, well before I desire, that I am closer to death than I would like to be, and the only reason my heart continues to beat is that God allows it. I’m sure there are pharmaceutical medications that can alleviate this problem, but I will not take them, and I also have not prayed to God to remove this affliction entirely, but to allow me to endure it, and to help me only if it is His will, because I know that if my heart palpitations disappear along with all of my other minor health problems, God in his mercy will have to give me another affliction to remind me of my true calling to serve Him in this life, not merely maintain perfect health so that I could enjoy the fallen world. He knows that if I did not have any bodily afflictions that remind me of death, I would slowly backslide into being a man of this world and a child of Satan.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed in your life, as soon as you solve one major problem, it doesn’t take long for another problem to surface. God gives you a cross that is well suited for you, but I imagine He will take it away if you truly can’t bear it. He will let you rest and then give you a new cross, because He knows you need a cross. We all need a cross. He sent His only Son in the flesh to teach you about this reality, and as Christians we must bear whatever cross He gives us if we care about our salvation.

The elderly suffer from health maladies not only because their body is degrading, but because God is trying to prepare them for the next life. The pharmaceutical commercials may show geriatrics having an “active lifestyle,” of actors smiling from ear to ear while playing tennis, but instead of popping dozens of pills a day in a vain attempt to extend life or minimize pain, what they really need to do is beg God to forgive them for their sins and prepare them to serve by His right hand in Paradise. You will not “win” at this life. Instead, you will die before you believe it’s time. It’s when you fight this truth that you really suffer, not only now but in the life to come.

Read Next: The Struggle For Virtue
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Make sure you're getting enough salt in your diet.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Orthodox
Gold Member
Anyone read "The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis? It's a trim little book, been sitting in my stack for a while but I haven't gotten around to it.

Yes, I read it a month or two ago. Good book. Deals with loss in a very visceral way, without the platitudes.
 
Definitely, all suffering is permitted by God. The nature of God, which is love, must allow suffering. One thing I have learned, though, is that not all suffering is ordered by God. Certainly, some suffering is The Book of Job is an example of that as is the discussion of God's discipline in Hebrews 12. There are many other examples.

As a child, I was bullied severely for years and years. I attempted suicide. When the bullies saw the scars on my wrist, they only laughed and yelled out, "What a loser! Too bad it didn't work." The fallout from those years of bullying has been decades of struggle.

I can't be 100% sure but my relationship with God tells me that He didn't want it to go that way for me as a child. He didn't order those bullies to do what they did.

No, the enemy is active. Evil is real. Satan is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour. It's disgusting that he preys upon children. But he does. Lucifer is perverse, ruthless, cunning, and bent on absolute destruction.

What is indisputable about God, though, is that He desires my salvation. He can take the darkness of my childhood and redeem it. He can and has reached out to me through time and space to let me know in the most powerful and heart-melting ways that He loves me,

He never wanted what happened to me to have happened. He is and was with me. He saw what happened and it grieves Him. He loves me so much that He sent his Son to die on the Cross so that I could be freed from the grip of darkness, evil, and satan. My suffering that has resulted from a childhood full of daily bullying is nothing compared to the glory of God and His redemptive power.

Below is a passage from The Doors of the Sea by Orthodox author David Bentley Hart, a book about theodicy framed in a discussion of the thousands of innocent lives that were snuffed out in the 2005 Indonesian tsunami wrapped around a framework of The Brothers Karamazov. The passage illustrates in beautiful fashion that though God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of an innocent child, He can conquer the evil behind it, and restore the child completely.

"As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child, I do not see the face of God but the face of his enemy. Such faith might never seem credible to someone like Ivan Karamazov, or still the disquiet of his conscience, or give him peace in place of rebellion, but neither is it a faith that his arguments can defeat: for it is a faith that set us free from optimism long ago and taught us hope instead. Now we are able to rejoice that we are saved not through the immanent mechanisms of history and nature, but by grace; that God will not unite all of history's many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; that he will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, he will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes - and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and he that sits upon the throne will say, "Behold, I make all things new."
 
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Most people have never suffered. Real suffering. Everyone has obstacles or even very emotional periods. Extremely unlikely you have suffered serious burns, been through several rounds of chemotherapy, been in a serious car accident where most of your bones were broken, etc.

As someone who is/has gone through a period of years of intense suffering, I'm not quite as pro-suffering. If a person were tied in a basement and tortured for a couple years, having fingers and toes cut off, burned, cut, etc, they would likely say that suffering is not what God hopes for us, but is something terrible that happened to be baked into existence.

Overall, my wish everyday is that the world has less suffering. I know the terror in real, horrifying suffering and hope that no one has to deal with that.

I am sorry to hear you've dealt with so much suffering in your life. It's probably more than what I've been through.

However, guaranteed, it's not worse than what Christ went through. To me that's one of the greatest consolations of our faith: knowing God is in charge of our suffering and has a good purpose behind it. Also that He Himself went through the most horrifying suffering in the flesh as one of us, for the noblest possible reason: to save us from similar suffering which, if we're honest with ourselves, we know we richly deserve. "There is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Also, the fact that the Lord who made heaven and earth humbled himself to become flesh and be condemned, mocked, and brutally tortured to death while fully feeling every bit of pain, means we can never accuse Him of being cruel or unjust toward us. He went through it Himself as well, giving us an example to follow.

Let us meditate on His ultimate suffering and try to bear our own with obedience and faith, looking to His example.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:9-10
 
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I think when we pray the Lord's prayer, and ask God to deliver us from evil, this includes delivering us from instances of suffering. God doesn't always grant these requests, but I still pray for release from suffering, or avoidance whenever possible. I agree with ball don't lie that suffering is not something I can wish for.

I often think of life as one long set of lifting weights. Intense pain, followed by intense pain, which I strive to enjoy and gain some benefit from. This is an ideal, not reality, but I think it's the right direction.

I agree we shouldn't wish evil upon ourselves. Suffering however, when borne honorably, is not evil but brings you eternal glory and honor. When the suffering is finally over for good, after a few decades at most, you and others will look back and realize how much suffering you bore without denying God or turning to evil, and that will be a glorious knowledge that lasts forever.

"Pain is temporary but victory lasts forever" is a trite old saying but is very true.

After saying all that: no, I surely don't want any more suffering to befall me. I'm human and weak and I'm afraid of pain. But when pain inevitably comes, may God give me the wisdom and strength to thank Him for it and willingly bear it.
 

Eusebius Erasmus

Pelican
Orthodox
I know we pray to suffer before we die to be purified. But what if you have the misfortune of dying a sudden death? I guess all we can do is pray extensively now and repent with the time that is given to us...Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us sinners.
In the Divine Liturgy, we pray for a ‘Christian death, painless, blameless, and a good defense before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ.’

Yes, suffering is a means to grow in our salvation, and can purify us, but where do we ask to suffer before dying?

Many of the great martyrs of history, before dying, felt no pain, being relieved by the Holy Spirit.
 
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One of the ways I'd become alienated from protestantism long before I encountered Orthodoxy was that they had no real theology of suffering. I didn't go to "prosperity gospel" preaching churches, but the general push, whether explicit or implicit, was always God Has An Amazing Plan For Your Life To Make You Happy. To marry the perfect beautiful person, to get a great job and house, and so on. All positive, uplifting messages. Great material for getting butts in the seats.

But what about when Real Life happens? When inevitable heartache, loss, and disappointment comes? They always struggled to give some sort of consolation, perhaps because so much of contemporary evangelicalism is a reaction to the dour Turn Or Burn fire-and-brimstone sermons that tried to scare you into Christian faith, popular for many decades (if not centuries.) Both extremes are in error. I wonder if many who have left Christianity in modern times did so because real life didn't line up with the rosy narrative they were sold. They ran face-first into suffering, and their tradition had no answer for it. Either their pastor shrugged, or maybe they were told wait until you die and sit on a fluffy cloud in Heaven where it'll all be okay.

This is what's so refreshing about Orthodoxy. Spiritual struggle is emphasized from day one. You will be attacked by demons. You will wrestle with your passions and fall flat on your face. You will grow, but only with great effort driven by thirst for God. The lives of Saints are filled with those who suffered for their faith. And of course, all of this is much more consonant with Scripture than the feel-good message of pop Christianity. You aren't told to avoid suffering, but to brace for it and prepare yourself spiritually so that you can be enriched by it rather than lash out against God and grow distant when things don't go your way.

You probably won't become rich, or successful, or popular, but you can be transformed, starting right now, in this life, into who you will be for eternity, someone whose life can reflect the same divine energy that shone through St. John the Theologian, or St. John Chrysostom, St. Photini, St. Seraphim of Sarov, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Elder Ephraim, and so on. Isn't that of infinitely more value - riches of the soul that no thief, no persecution can take away - than the bowl of cold porridge The World offers us instead?

Subversion makes parodies of almost all venerable institutions.
 
Most people have never suffered. Real suffering. Everyone has obstacles or even very emotional periods. Extremely unlikely you have suffered serious burns, been through several rounds of chemotherapy, been in a serious car accident where most of your bones were broken, etc.

As someone who is/has gone through a period of years of intense suffering, I'm not quite as pro-suffering. If a person were tied in a basement and tortured for a couple years, having fingers and toes cut off, burned, cut, etc, they would likely say that suffering is not what God hopes for us, but is something terrible that happened to be baked into existence.

Overall, my wish everyday is that the world has less suffering. I know the terror in real, horrifying suffering and hope that no one has to deal with that.

That is why I have firm conviction that torturers and mutilators should also suffer the death penalty. Those people turn Earth into Hell far more so than many other sins.
 
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