Sunday, February 21, 2010

Suffering Succotash Day 2

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
Helen Keller

Is it true that suffering is the only way we develop character?

Does our success in life depend on the hardships we face?

Maybe Helen Keller, who went through life blind, deaf, and mute, was only justifying her existence, or to put it more kindly, was looking for the silver lining in the black cloud that was her life. Hmmm?

It's a good thing I'm not cynical. If I were, I wouldn't like me at all.

I happen to agree with Helen’s statement. It’s the only thing that makes sense of the suffering of good people. If there is a God who loves us, why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow fine people to suffer, while wicked ones get off scott free?

Questions like those are asked in the Bible. There isn’t one perfect answer, but partial answers abound: The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Trouble doesn’t differentiate between saints and wrong-doers. God uses trials to refine us like gold. Without the refinement, all the impurities would remain. God also turns all things to good for those who love Him and seek to do His will.

I know if you can make it through a period of suffering, you’ll be stronger at the end of it, just like a muscle being strengthened by the force of resistance. I know, because I lived through it.

Bad things used to make me whine and attempt suicide. But now, because of years spent surviving rough times and looking for reasons to keep believing in God, prayer, life, and myself, I’m able to walk through difficulties with some grace. I don’t fall flat on my face in the quagmire anymore.

Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Losing my father at a young age has made me compassionate with the losses experienced by others. Dealing with lifelong depression has made me sensitive to others with mental illness. Being a recovering alcoholic has made me empathetic with those who also struggle with issues of addiction. Having a mother with dementia has made me kinder toward her and others.

So experience has taught me that good comes of bad, if you look for the silver lining. What have you learned from suffering? How do you handle the trials of life?


the walking man said...

Personally I never understood why we think God causes or allows our troubles. Why is it we think the eternal controls and directs every action that happens in the finite world...that thinking makes little sense to me.

Berowne said...

There was a Broadway play, years ago, that ended with a deathbed scene. An old man was dying and his relatives wanted to hear his last words.

Which were: "I don't understand any of it, and I never did."

Collette said...

I do believe that suffering makes you stronger. People who don't go through struggle can't quite understand you. But pushing through gived you a deeper perspective of life & people.
I am also a recovering alcoholic & have had some trials in my life. I do think that I am much more patient & caring because of it. (((HUGS)))

lakeviewer said...

We expect happiness to be ladled daily from a bottomless turreen. Life is a struggle from day on. Let's accept absence of pain as happiness; absence of hunger as happiness.

Reason for prayer? To shut us up for a few minutes and help us see what a miracle it is to be JUST alive.

Mrsupole said...

Maybe the real question to Helen Keller's saying is what does she consider to be a trial and suffering. What one person sees as a trial, another person might see as a challenge. While another person may suffer through a situation, another person may quite enjoy the experience.

Probably the best example of this is speaking in front of a crowd, while most people hate it, others tolerate it, and then there are some who thoroughly enjoy the experience. But then again that person might go crazy spending time alone.

And you are great to have overcome so much in the face of adversity. It is probably true about that what does not kill us, only makes us stronger. Many people would never be able to better theirselves in some of the situations that you have had to endure. So hats off to you. I hope you can feel this pat on the back that I am also giving you.

God bless.

Kim A. said...

Whew. Yep. I can't add a thing. I am not a cynic either. Life is about experiencing it, for me. I used to avoid it, through flight and fancy. I am so glad I am here, now. Just for today.


Anonymous said...

I like to cry away the bad things, get the poison out of me. If I need to cry about it again, it will be less the next time. Then I let the bad things diminish and file them away in the remote part of the attic of my mind.
Then move on and magnify the good things.


Realliveman said...

each defines success in their own way. Success is just a thought....and idea. We are all successful if we think we are.

Very nice blog. I will be back for more!

Scott said...

I enjoyed your post this morning... I love reflecting on matters of faith and God's love and so forth.

I especially liked this bit:

"I happen to agree with Helen’s statement. It’s the only thing that makes sense of the suffering of good people. If there is a God who loves us, why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow fine people to suffer, while wicked ones get off scott free?"

My first cynical though after reading the quote was "well, of course someone who had such a difficult life would say something like that..." Nice, Scott, geeeze lol.

Now that I have had a sip of coffee and taken a moment to fully reflect on the rest of your post here's what comes to mind...

For me, I believe that God gave us the gift of free will. He asks us to choose to come to him, to choose to follow His only Son to Him. He wants us to love Him, no doubt, but He wants it to be our choice. So really, the gift of our free will is a gift to Himself as well. Bad things to happen, many of them happen as a result of people's free will choices. As for "natural disasters" God made the Earth the way He made it. Our choices in dealing with suffering either bring us close to Him or seperate us from Him, again our choosing. I don't know that He necessarily allowed for "bad things" to happen naturally only to drive us to Him. but then, I don't necessarily need to understand everything I guess, lol I dunno. And who knows, I may have it all wrong lol.

Thanks for helping me reflect this morning!

Brian Miller said...

suffering has a great way of bringing people together as well. we all have suffered in some way. through it and those we surround ourselves with i think character comes....

Anonymous said...

Suffering has deepened my empathy for others. Particularly for those bringing up the rear in this long line of suffering that alcoholism has formed.

Magpie said...

This one really can make a person ponder...
I feel good can come from bad if we allow it to.
I feel in large part the same things are going to happen to us - good or bad - it's how we handle them that makes us who we are.
I feel quiet, beautiful moments can build character also..just different aspects of our character.
I feel life is all about lessons - some just take us longer to learn and we sometimes have to revisit them.

Thank you for your new blog project and the thought-provoking quotes you are choosing. I love to read others' points of view.

TechnoBabe said...

Learning from suffering takes the will to learn. In the middle of pain and crisis, I do not see that I am learning anything lasting, only trying to hang on by the last of my nails and what is left of my wits. Up until last year the way I would handle trials was to disassociate. Numb out. Not be present. That worked for all my life from young child till last year. Then one more huge crisis seemed to be just one too many for me. But it wasn't too much. It was the one that I finally got the help I needed. Today I thank God I do not have a huge trial to face and I handle the trials that do come my way by putting them in perspective and being true to my recovery and using the tools I have worked so hard to earn. Really good post here, my friend.

Matty said...

Life has taught you many valuable lessons. And for good reason. How can you help others if you don't know what they are going through.

When the times get tough, I just deal with it. I don't know how or why, but I am just able to deal with things without much bother.

Prayer Girl said...

I've just stop asking why? "...and acceptance was the answer to all my problems."

My philosophy? Easy!
What is - is!
What was - was!
What ain't - ain't!

Thank God I have found the AA and Al-Anon programs to help me live life to the fullest without having to worry about all the whys.

Life is much better this way.


Karen said...

Suffering has strengthened my empathy and my faith. It has taught me to be happy every day of my life. There's an old hymn that exemplifies this. It goes, "Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,'It is well, it is well with my soul.'"

Sherry said...

I liked Scott's point of view and also the part of Magpie's comment: "I feel in large part the same things are going to happen to us - good or bad - it's how we handle them that makes us who we are.

In my situation, I know that my faith in God and my character has been strengthened through my pain!

Syd said...

I always liked the quote "pain is inevitable but suffering is optional". I think that pain is part of living. Eckhart Tolle writes about the pain body that each of us has. But whether I decide to suffer is up to me. I don't like to sink into self-pity which is what I associate as a corollary to suffering. I do think that the pain that occurs in life happens to each of us. It is how we deal with the pain that determines so much. Great post Chris.

Anonymous said...

Helen Keller amazes me.
(word verification was "warmamen" cool)

Dianne said...

Actually, thanks to the tiny church I attend, I had this conversation with my teen boys tonight. No conclusions, though many teens thought they had the answers.

first, ask the questions.
second, question the authorities.
third, trust your faith.
fourth, ask what is the will of the force that created me, and how do I promote the growth of others.

You are asking and doing and living. Why do bad things happen, is relative. What is your inner peace.....answer that from passing through all struggle to the new day.

dear one,

Susan said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for the opportunity to entertain wonderful ideas and thoughts. Especially in my current circumstances. Thanks for you kind comment on my post, too! Blessings!

Susan said...

A quote I found today about just this very thing, I think:

"To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain, and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness, and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain."

~Howard Cutler

Reminds me of the Tolle idea basically.