Friday, March 14, 2014

Enduring Pain

Each day in the news we hear about persons who because of financial difficulties kill themselves, often with  family members. A university professor writing in the View from the Ark, the Catholic Time, presents a dire picture of those who take their own lives.  

One woman in her thirties, he reports, faced with mounting difficulties, jumped with her four-year old son from the 15th floor of her apartment building; another woman in her sixties, along with her two daughters, died by burning charcoal briquettes and inhaling the poisonous carbon monoxide fumes, and a manual laborer in his sixties, also a suicide who had been living in a rented basement, left behind 1,000 dollars to be cremated.

There are many difficulties associated with the current efforts being made to address the problem: in our welfare programs, the monies allotted, and how much the length of a stagnating  economy and the polarization of  society are contributing to the problem. Our aging society and the number of the elderly who are living alone are also factors that need to be considered. But up till now there has been only a passive and indirect approach to some of these  problems, he laments. The professor hopes that something will be done soon, but he admits he doesn't know much about the welfare system and the other means of addressing the problem. His eyes, he says, are pointed in the direction of the suffering that many have to endure in our society.

An important goal in life, he points out, is trying to understand how to deal with the  pain and anguish that  frequently is so much a part of the lives of many of us. We  try to diminish the amount of pain but this, we know, is not always possible. We try to prepare for the difficult eventualities, but the realities can only be seen vaguely and are difficult to prepare for, realizing that in most cases we have to wait until we come face to face with the problems and then decide what has to be done.

By reflecting on his  own life and experiences in overcoming pain, the professor says it has given him the tools to deal with whatever pain will come in the future. Though the pain he has had to deal with has not been overwhelming, it's the pain that comes from nowhere, and not knowing why we are having the pain, he says, that is the hardest to accept. When this kind of pain comes, how are we to endure it? he asks.

In our lives, irrespective of time and place, we are often faced with severe pain which we do  not understand, but the strength to endure it will come, he says, from acknowledging our innate dignity as persons created and loved by God. We must look beyond this world's standards  and work with the  truths of religion. The transcendent  truths will carry us through the difficult times, and it will be with  dignity. With this way of thinking we can  endure the pain that comes.

Even though everything may happen differently from what had been planned and hoped for, this is the result, he reminds us, of being a human being. As a believer he trusts in the truths of faith to give him the strength which will enable him to endure.

"Be glad  about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can  be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you  will receive praise and glory and honor on the day Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)

The professor admits that these words, when heard by persons in severe anguish and pain, will come across as empty  and may even make them angrier.  However, it does no good to seek to blame someone or something for our suffering. No matter how much we look for answers or  resist the suffering, it will be to no avail, It is the result of being human.  We are left with the need to endure.

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