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On October 11, someone posted this photo of a treasure of beautiful shells deposited on the Fernandina Beach in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” Job 42:12

We have been programmed by this materialistic, childish Western society that all suffering is bad and meaningless, that there is no purpose in suffering, and that we can only be happy without suffering. That’s like expecting to get fit without going to the gym or to lose weight without a decent diet, or to get money given to you by others who work or the government instead of working for it. The real joy of success in every area of life is to achieve it through patience, learning, mistakes, hard work, persistence, and sweat. It’s not what we make in the bank but what we make of ourselves; what we become is the true goal.

How we INTERPRET our suffering and circumstances determines the degree to which we suffer.

There is intent in all suffering and to a large extent, we determine its ultimate value to us by the way we choose to perceive and handle it. The older I get, the more I see how many benefits I have received directly because of difficult and painful times. I see rewards contingent on my attitudes, choices, and decisions during suffering.

If we believe that it all ends when we die, that this life is all there is, that it’s all about pleasure and fun and entertainment here on earth, then suffering is meaningless. When we see that life continues after death and our philosophy makes sense of that, the context changes from the temporal to the eternal; we put away childish viewpoints.

For example, my Buddhist friend told me that “Buddha” means the Awakened One, whose teachings are the Dharma, a spiritual path, a roadmap to enlightenment. This Dharma, he said, is designed to lead us all out of Samsara, which is simply an objective observation that this realm in which we now live involves suffering, which can be transcended. In other words, this ignorance involving suffering can be relieved by pursuing the Dharma. This aims to eliminate the very causes of suffering through spiritual practice. My friend takes refuge in the Buddha, considering him not a god, but a guide. He takes refuge in the Dharma, which is not a dogma, but a path. He also believes in reincarnation, so we are not restricted to this one life.

As a Christian, I take refuge in Christ and in His teachings, which help me to gain a true perspective on life, and as I follow His teachings I see purpose in suffering, which is controlled by my heavenly Father, as in the case of Job. I know I will not be exposed to any suffering that is too hard for me to handle because God is my perfect Father and he loves me. I handle it with His help and strength, I enjoy His peace of mind and direction through the Holy Spirit along the path, and I have a firm conviction that this life represents mere seconds compared to the eons of eternal life awaiting me.

 The lens through which we view our suffering, our focus on what we have to be grateful for and look forward to as opposed to what we want or claim to “deserve” or what we believe to be “missing” from our lives, and whether we focus on relieving our own suffering or the suffering of others, and what we attach value to makes a significant difference to our quality of, and enjoyment of life.

Robin Elliott   LeverageAdvantage.com

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