Pain and Suffering – Seeds for Growth

Pain and Suffering

Seeds for Growth

 

Chapter 1 Why do we feel such pain?

 

Wisdom

Questions

 

There are certain questions that we all ask during our lifetime: Why is there so much suffering in the world?

 

How do we deal with emotional, spiritual and psychological pain?

 

Why does G-d sometimes allow righteous people to suffer such extreme pain?

 

The Paradox of Questions

 

These questions pose a paradox.

 

The very fact that we are naturally upset by suffering testifies to our belief in a fair and righteous G-d, whom we expect to rule the world justly.

 

And yet, we see that pain and suffering cause many people to question the very existence of G-d or at least his effectiveness.

 

We never accept pain as our “natural” state; we recognize it as a suffocating and unacceptable experience, and we will do anything to relieve ourselves of the pain.

 

Still, pain can break our will and prevent us from thinking clearly and finding help.

 

So how do we resolve this dilemma and escape the clutches of pain?

Pain is Emotions

 

One must take great care in discussing pain and suffering.

 

Even though they stem from very real, sometimes devastating experiences – the loss of a loved one, a serious setback – they are manifested as emotions, and therefore impervious to rational scrutiny.

Pain is Real

How then can we discus such matters without insulting the sufferer?

 

By recognizing that emotional, spiritual or physiological pain is real, and that no amount of talk can truly relieve it.

 

Yet pain and suffering must be dealt with effectively and compassionately in order to forge ahead and live a truly meaningful life.

 

Any emotion clouds our rationale, and when it is as powerful as pain, it can consume us, distorting the way look at ourselves and the world.

The Paradox of Emotions

 

Emotions are in themselves a paradox: they are natural feelings, yet they cause us to see things in an unnatural light.

 

Acknowledging this paradox is the key to unlocking the mystery of pain and suffering.

 

There are those who try to explain these emotions.

 

Some people of faith try to minimize pain by explaining that this is what G-d wants for us.

 

Others use pain as an excuse to justify bitterness and even malicious behavior.

 

But no explanation is sufficient.

 

The greatest thinker, the firmest believer, the harshest skeptic – they are all left groping for answers when they are in pain.

 

A person who is suffering stands in a class by himself.

 

His pain gives him the prerogative to question and challenge G-d, or to remain silent and allow the pain to seep through his being.

Do not explain away another’s Pain

 

For those who haven’t suffered, trying to explain away someone else’s pain – or in the other extreme, questioning the faith of the sufferer despite G-d’s silence – is vulgar and arrogant.

However we should question our personal response to Pain

 

We must challenge our own intentions in questioning G-d during times of pain.

 

Are these questions coming out of anger?

 

Are we using the pain to justify our response?

Pain is an Aberration

 

No matter how difficult it may be, we must remember that pain is an aberration, not a norm, and so we shouldn’t allow our aberrational thoughts and doubts in response to pain to become the new norm.

Don’t give up

 

Perhaps you have been tempted at some point to resign yourself to your pain, to give up your spirit.

Don’t turn away from G-d

 

Your pain may even lead you to turn away from G-d.

 

But turning away from G-d means turning away from the very answer to your pain and suffering and thus allowing the pain and suffering to victimize you.

 

Even in the deepest moments of despair, we must realize that our absolute faith in G-d is what gives us the capacity to somehow reconcile and deal with our grief.

 

In a world without G-d, pain and suffering would indeed be fruitless.

 

But with G-d at the helm, even though the pain may subside, we can accept it as part of the challenge of life; it motivates us to seek answers, to explore our relationship with G-d, and to grow from the experience.

 

This is the great challenge of pain: Will you allow it to debilitate you or will you see it as a catalyst to delve deeper into yourself and your beliefs?

 

Will you allow the emotions to distort your inner sense of the truth, or will you recognize pain as a crucible from which you will emerge stronger then ever.

 

We can truly relate to the meaning of pain only before or after the experience.

 

During pain and suffering, there is little that can be said.

 

So during the “years of plenty” we must prepare for the “years of famine.”

 

The better we truly understand our lives when things are going well, the better we will deal with pain when it strikes.

 

While a tree with strong roots can withstand a harsh storm, it can hardly grow them once the storm is on the horizon.

 

Chapter 2 What Can We Learn From Pain and Suffering?

 

Wisdom

Suffering can lead us to reconsider the meaning of our existence

 

Pain and suffering are opportunities to challenge the way we look at life.

 

When things are going well, we tend to take life for granted, but trauma brings us to the edges of life, allowing us to review it from a new, revealing angle.

 

So the real question we must ask ourselves is not just why we sometimes feel such acute pain, but what we are meant to learn from it.

 

When you see life as being limited to the here and now, to the immediacy of a bodily existence, you are bound to be frightened and hurt by anything that attacks that existence.

 

When you are aware of a larger picture, though, of a spiritual reality besides a physical one, pain is only one component.

 

Whereas pain is ultimately ephemeral – whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual – life is eternal, and what matters most is the long term contribution you make.

 

To this end, you need to look for the positive energy that your suffering produces.

 

Like the precious few drops of oil that can be extracted only when olives are crushed, suffering can lead us to reconsider the meaning of our existence, to commit more fully to our spiritual development.

 

Wisdom

Pain may be masking another cause

 

In and of itself, your pain is often a sign that something else is wrong.

 

It is a symptom of a cause that may not be readily visible, and you must look at life from a sharper angle to find this cause.

 

Someone who leads a materialistic life is bound to misconstrue pain, for materialism is by nature transient, fragmented into many isolated moments.

 

So when you feel pain, you concentrate on it and can feel nothing else.

 

You may weigh the pain you are feeling at the moment against the joy you felt yesterday, and decide that perhaps life is not worth the trouble.

 

Practice and Theory

As you have a soul, pain must be deeper than its physical sensation

 

When you see beyond a one dimensional life, beyond the moment, when you realize that you are composed of not just a body, but a body and soul, you recognize that there is a far higher purpose to your life.

 

And that there is a far deeper meaning to your pain.

 

Wisdom

 

To the naked eye, our goal in life may be to pursue momentary happiness through material comfort.

 

But we ultimately discover this to be a shallow and meaningless objective.

 

The true goal in life is to challenge ourselves in order to refine the material world.

 

Life is synonymous with challenge, and challenge is synonymous with the potential for good and evil, and our ability to choose between the two.

 

Without the possibility that we may fail temporarily, there would be no independence to life, and therefore no meaning.

 

Pain and suffering are consequences of this independence, and of the dichotomy between body and soul.

 

By creating a harmony between body and soul, by moving from a physical one dimensional life into a spiritual two dimensional life you begin to transform your pain into a learning experience and a positive energy.

 

Practice and Theory

Realigning your perspective on life…

 

Realigning your perspective on life necessitates a serious commitment, and it cannot be done easily.

 

It takes discipline and the concentrated effort of study and prayer and good deeds; it means introducing a higher value system to your life.

 

But it is the only worthy response to pain – and even this may not lift the pain, which is just a short term symptom of a long term cause that you have now set to address.

 

There is no true explanation for pain; the only way we can understand pain and suffering is by recognizing that the world itself is intrinsically good and that pain and suffering are somehow part of the larger good.

 

This is not to suggest that pain itself is good nor that we should peacefully accept it.

 

In fact we must do everything in our power to alleviate suffering in ourselves and others.

 

At the same time, we must recognize that pain and suffering are part of the mystery of life, a larger picture that the human eyes cannot always see but becomes apparent over the course of time.

 

As the sages say “Everything G-d does he does for the best.”

 

It is your duty to discover how pain may be a blessing in disguise and to overcome the pain and restore harmony to your body and soul.

 

Consider the inevitable frustration that precedes any creative growth or the intense pain that a woman feels when giving birth.

 

No matter how great such pain might be it is ultimately absorbed in the goodness it produces.

 

Chapter 3 How Do We Relieve our Pain?

 

Practice and Theory

The Loneliness of Pain

 

Pain is a lonely experience.

 

Still, we must strive to recognize that our pain is, in some form, G-d trying to communicate with us.

 

Breaking out of pain’s vicious grip is very difficult to do alone, for the pain itself can hold us hostage, limiting our activity and vision to the point were we are nearly helpless.

 

It is critical therefore, to reach out to family or friends who can offer a wider perspective.

 

Practice and Theory

Distraction

 

Freeing yourself from pain begins through movement – moving away and distracting yourself from the painful situation, moving away from the cause that produces such painful experiences so that you can begin to heal.

 

This movement may be as simple as finding a new friend;

Reading a new book;

Getting involved in a project;

Or taking a educational class – anything to help alter your solitary myopic perspective on yourself and the world.

 

Practice and Theory

 

For some, starting to climb out of pain requires a strong push.

 

One should not wait until he hits rock bottom.

 

This is where true friends play a vital role.

 

When someone you love and care for is in pain, you must be there for him, no matter what he needs.

 

He may say he wants to be alone, that he wants to work through his problems by himself, and this must be respected.

 

But you must help him also recognize that he needs to broaden his perspective, not further limit it.

 

Find a way to spend time with him, to talk with him, to share your thoughts with each other.

 

Most importantly love him and help him help himself.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Another component to easing pain is, paradoxically, accepting it with joy.

 

Practice and Theory

 

You must be willing to release its inner good by making peace with your soul and G-d.

 

And you must remember that pain is an opportunity for growth – a chance to review your conduct, to pause and examine your busy life for the source of such pain.

 

You must recognize that pain can cleanse you, just as a mother swabs her child’s cut with alcohol.

 

Surely she does not wish to cause further suffering or pain, but she knows it is necessary to properly heal the wound.

 

Practice and Theory

 

It is important that you see pain as a test that examines how consumed you are with material comfort as opposed to spiritual growth.

 

When we recognize our true objective in life, and pursue it with a firm will, our obstacles turn into challenges; instead of being stymied we draw upon our reservoirs of strength and determination.

 

In this way, pain and suffering test our true commitment to G-d.

 

Wisdom

 

We cannot help but ask: Why must there be such suffering?

 

Couldn’t G-d have allowed us to grow without such pain?

 

Out faith in G-d dictates that the very fact that there is no answer to this question is in itself proof that we do not need to answer the question in order to fulfill our purpose in life.

 

The key to dealing with pain and suffering is to stop searching for an answer to satisfy our minds.

 

After all, it was G-d who created us not vice versa.

 

How can we presume to fully understand his ways?

 

So when we ask ourselves, Why does G-d allow such suffering? or Why does G-d permit tragedy and destruction?, ultimately our only true answer is, only G-d knows.

 

Such trust should not be confused with resignation.

 

Instead, we must look upon pain as an impetus to redouble our efforts to behave righteously, to encourage others to do the same, and to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man at every opportunity.

 

By recognizing that pain serves a deeper purpose we expose it for what it is – a challenge to be met with intense determination.

 

Practice and Theory

The Benefit of Demonstrating Continued Trust in G-d

 

Instead of being broken by pain, you must demonstrate your complete trust in G-d.

 

By continuing your life with intense commitment to goodness thereby you will challenge G-d to live up to His promise of being righteous and fair.

 

Practice

 

Trust in G-d is our way of turning pain around.

 

It proves to G-d that, although we may not fully understand our pain, we recognize it as part of a greater good.

 

And despite our setbacks, despite our confusion, despite our pain, we remain absolutely confident that goodness will prevail.

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