Perspectives on Suffering (and life itself)

I was visiting my favorite blog, Beyond Blue, produced by Therese J. Borchard, a little bit ago; and found today’s article very moving. I’d like to piggy-back on it, bringing you what I believe is a meaningful message on suffering.

Therese presented an interview with the late Franciscan teacher, poet, and African American catalyst, Sister Thea Bowman. Cancer took Sister Bowman from this world in 1990. And just one of the things that made her life so extraordinary was her dedication to her work to the “very end” – in spite of being horribly ill.

I’ve written about suffering numerous times here on chipur. And even if it wasn’t the featured subject matter, the topic was implied throughout the piece. But, in addition to Sister Thea’s perspective on suffering, I’d like to add a few more.

So the interviewer in Therese’s article asks Sister Thea…

Why do people have to suffer? What possible good can come from it?

I’ll provide her answer at the end; however, in the meantime – well – Why? and What?

The great psychotheorist, writer, and professor – and Auschwitz survivor – Viktor Frankl says this…

If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. The way in which a man (woman) accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.

Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decided whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.

It seems Frankl was a follower of the Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoevski, who wrote…

There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.

And then there’s the great apostle, Paul

And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong.

For his (Jesus) sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Finally, the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote…

He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.

Oh – here’s Sister Thea’s reply I promised earlier…

I don’t know. Why is there war? Why is there hunger? Why is there pain? Perhaps it’s an incentive for struggling human beings to reach out to one another, to help one another, to love one another, to be blessed and strengthened and humanized in the process.

I know that suffering gives us new perspectives and helps us to clarify our real value. I know that suffering has helped me to clarify my relationships … Perhaps suffering stops us in our tracks and forces us to confront what is real within ourselves and in our environment.

Here’s the link to Therese’s article. Be sure to read it, okay?

Let Me Live Until I Die: An Interview With Thea Bowman

What more can I say? How ’bout you? We’d love to read your comments…