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Struggling To Understand Suffering


SteveO

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I don't post here much, but I've always been a steady reader of the site.

It's not suffering in my own life that has me sleepless tonight. My life is very good at the moment--lots to be thankful for. I've just got done reading the daily headlines an hour ago--and I can't stop thinking about them. Now I understand the news is generally tilted towards highlighting negativity and leaving out the good in the world. But I can't help but feel like the author of "I heard the bells on Christmas Day".

And in despair I bowed my head,

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth goodwill towards men

I know the author in the song finds solace in the fact of the reality of a living and mindful redeemer. But at the moment the belief I thought I shared with him isn't really giving me much comfort. Maybe it's just bout of doubt--but at the moment I'm wondering how we reconcile the blessings of the most prosperous nation on earth with those who live lives of destitution and violence elsewhere? What good is the gospel and spreading it when there are those whose needs far outnumber the charity and humanitarian capabilities of the church? I feel so incredibly guilty right now. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Empathy is a good thing, generally.  But can it be carried too far?  Perhaps.  Perhaps we would do well to remember that our plight in life is a matter between God and us, and others' plight in life is a matter between God and them.  We also ought to remember that just because we look at others' plight and see suffering, they don't necessarily see it that way.  One of the things I love most about the story of Job is that he retained his faith even after his friends told him he should simply curse God and die.

 

Our inability to see or to understand God's purposes, in our own mortal experience or that of someone else, has exactly zero impact on His ability to fulfill those purposes.  (Only He can see the end from the beginning.)  Often, we can only say, as did Job, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."  Often, we can only say, with Nephi, "I know that [God] loveth His children.  Nevertheless, I know not the meaning of all things."  Often, we can only say, with Isaiah, that "God's ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts."

 

For more of my thoughts along these lines, see here (last accessed today): https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/on-gods-injustice/.

 

This is only the second act.  For more on that, see here (last accessed today): https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/taking-the-long-view/

 

There are no easy answers, and perhaps few satisfying ones.  I wish you well. :)

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I hear you SteveO and disagree with some comments as far as not being able to do something, or it's just between us and God. God asks us to be our brother's keeper. A situation we've failed at miserably, myself included. There are ways to feed every man, woman and child, our country or other wealthy countries haven't made it a #1 priority. Others come before it. But do understand it may be a losing battle as far as corrupted nations getting in the way. But think if we focus on it constantly there is bound to be a way, whether God helps those that want it done or not, who knows. But it was His commandment, and we just let it slide. Talk about great and spacious buildings, shopping malls, hunting preserves. God doesn't want a no holds barr temple to dwell in, I'm sure a humble abode would suffice, he wants that effort/$ elsewhere, IMHO. I know our church does a lot though but think of the girl in the phone commercial, "I just want more".

Edited by Tacenda
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I think we all struggle with the suffering and chaos in the world today, and particularly when bad things happen to good people... and I agree that we as a nation, as a Church, as individuals can and should help as we are able... but what is the scripture?  The poor will always be with us?

There's a lot to say about various countries and corruption, etc., which impacts international help, but I don't want to get political... I support certain humanitarian efforts such as Red Cross, Salvation Army, as I'm able because of their international efforts etc.

I also believe that Heavenly Father must just shake his head at the goings on of his children... but we fought a battle for and have our agency and he will not interfere...yet...  political leaders therefore may be corrupt and siphon monies given as aid for example... nations fight wars instead of helping one another, etc etc.  It's a lot bigger than what we, the nation, or the Church can do... I fear it is to only get worse, as we march through the last days...

 

GG

Edited by Garden Girl
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I hear you SteveO and disagree with some comments as far as not being able to do something, or it's just between us and God. God asks us to be our brother's keeper. A situation we've failed at miserably, myself included. There are ways to feed every man, woman and child, our country or other wealthy countries haven't made it a #1 priority. Others come before it. But do understand it may be a losing battle as far as corrupted nations getting in the way. But think if we focus on it constantly there is bound to be a way, whether God helps those that want it done or not, who knows. But it was His commandment, and we just let it slide. Talk about great and spacious buildings, shopping malls, hunting preserves. God doesn't want a no holds barr temple to dwell in, I'm sure a humble abode would suffice, he wants that effort/$ elsewhere, IMHO. I know our church does a lot though but think of the girl in the phone commercial, "I just want more".

Do you really consider our Temples to be “great and spacious buildings?”  IIRC, an essential  element of the “great and spacious building” imagery is that the people therein are mocking those who are outside.  There have been many instances of people outside the Temple mocking those inside.  But I have never ever seen or  heard of a single instance of anyone inside the Temple mocking those who are outside.  In my experience, everything that occurs inside the temple promotes introspection, humility, love of my fellow man, and a desire to live a more Christian life.   

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I don't post here much, but I've always been a steady reader of the site.

It's not suffering in my own life that has me sleepless tonight. My life is very good at the moment--lots to be thankful for. I've just got done reading the daily headlines an hour ago--and I can't stop thinking about them. Now I understand the news is generally tilted towards highlighting negativity and leaving out the good in the world. But I can't help but feel like the author of "I heard the bells on Christmas Day".

And in despair I bowed my head,

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong, and mocks the song

Of peace on earth goodwill towards men

I know the author in the song finds solace in the fact of the reality of a living and mindful redeemer. But at the moment the belief I thought I shared with him isn't really giving me much comfort. Maybe it's just bout of doubt--but at the moment I'm wondering how we reconcile the blessings of the most prosperous nation on earth with those who live lives of destitution and violence elsewhere? What good is the gospel and spreading it when there are those whose needs far outnumber the charity and humanitarian capabilities of the church? I feel so incredibly guilty right now. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Worrying over the suffering of loved ones or strangers, is a sign of God's nearness. It is therefore, your call to prayer. Join your prayers in that hour to those who are suffering, as they cry out to God themselves. Pray for the conversion of those who are causing suffering. (It is, by the way, one reason why Catholic monks and sisters pray at midnight and 3am. To join their prayers to those who cannot sleep because they are suffering. Like Israel in captivity, God hears the prayers of those who suffer.)

"There is one rule by which to judge if God is near us

or is far away –

the rule that God’s word is giving us today:

everyone concerned for the hungry, the naked, the poor,

for those who have vanished in police custody, for the tortured,

for prisoners,

for all flesh that suffers,

has God close at hand."

-Oscar Romero, February 5, 1978, From a homily on Luke 9:23-27

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

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Do you really consider our Temples to be “great and spacious buildings?”  IIRC, an essential  element of the “great and spacious building” imagery is that the people therein are mocking those who are outside.  There have been many instances of people outside the Temple mocking those inside.  But I have never ever seen or  heard of a single instance of anyone inside the Temple mocking those who are outside.  In my experience, everything that occurs inside the temple promotes introspection, humility, love of my fellow man, and a desire to live a more Christian life.   

It's also nice to get away from the rat race for a while.

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It's also nice to get away from the rat race for a while.

Indeed.

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I don't post here much, but I've always been a steady reader...

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Back in the last century it occurred to me that I really ought

to try and do something to help make the world a better place,

even if my contribution was a very small one in the greater

scheme of things.

A few years of volunteer work in South Asia convinced me that

no matter how much we attempt to do to alleviate suffering,

those efforts will be like a grain of salt, dissolved in a vast

ocean of universal need.

Sure -- go ahead and do your part -- try your best -- but expecting

to make much of a dent in human suffering will only lead to more

frustration. The attempt itself is what matters, but the need will

not diminish. The Buddhists I lived among, back then, had come

to similar realizations eons ago.

And, don't even get me started on animal suffering... The amount

is incalculable.

Try to imagine a world -- even a world with only lower level

animals -- perhaps a world with no sentient beings -- in

which there was NO SUFFERING. How would such a world

exist, from day to day? Would the wolf never attack the lamb?

Would the chick never starve, if the mother hen was absent?

Would lightning never strike a cattle herd?

I cannot imagine such a world. Suffering, injustice and

"evil" (for want of a better word) are part of life's fabric.

UD

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It's also nice to get away from the rat race for a while.

 

Indeed Robert...We call it a retreat. Meaning to run away from it all every so often.

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Indeed.

Since I said what you did...hurrah for us both Ken!

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A few years of volunteer work in South Asia convinced me that

no matter how much we attempt to do to alleviate suffering,

Try to imagine a world -- even a world with only lower level

animals -- perhaps a world with no sentient beings -- in

which there was NO SUFFERING. How would such a world

exist, from day to day? Would the wolf never attack the lamb?

Would the chick never starve, if the mother hen was absent?

Would lightning never strike a cattle herd?

UD

 

I approach alleviating human suffering as best I can, but agree that it will never be enough... never. 

And I, too, abhor the way that we humans treat animals... my efforts to help are to support groups like no kill shelters, ASPCA, companies that do not use animals to test products, etc., and, my two wonderful cats were rescued... first Charlie who was feral, and now from the shelter my beautiful Bob.  But there are still companies and individuals who continue to abuse animals and I have to try to do the best I can to help...

When it comes to the animal world itself, sometimes the "food chain" can seem cruel (I do have to turn away when the lions pull down a beautiful gazelle who is running for its life... or see the Orca with its seal... )  But the food chain was created and is perfectly efficient... for instance, the lions chase down a gazelle (many times it is those that are weakest or oldest).  They eat their fill and leave the carcus to be picked clean by hyenas... then buzzards, and finally numerous varieties of insects.   Nothing is left except the bones.  In the long run, this helps control populations, assuring the strongest survive.  Even among the insects there is a "chain."  The world of animals is amazing... it is we humans that are the predators.

 

GG

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We may not be able to make much of a difference in the world as a whole, but that doesn't mean we cannot and should not do what we can to make a difference in our little corner of it.  As then-Bishop Glenn L. Pace of the Presiding Bishopric put it, "We cannot do everything, but we must do what we can." :)

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...The world of animals is amazing... it is we humans that are the predators.

 

GG

 

I think about this sort of thing a lot -- I guess, just about every day,

when I'm out in our small back-yard garden, mostly.

 

I watch the lizards attacking the earthworms; and the birds attacking

the lizards -- and (when I'm not careful to intervene) my cat trying to

attack the birds. And, throughout the hours there spent, the mosquitoes

relentlessly attacking me.

 

I can only hope that the lower-level life forms, with less developed

nervous systems, perhaps do not feel pain as acutely as we do.

 

Flipping through the cable TV channels the other day, I happened

upon some Protestant televangelist, pontificating on how "life was

different before Noah's flood" and how the "lions in those days ate

the grass of the field" and that everything lived "for centuries and

centuries before dying." The fellow concluded his diatribe by telling

me that "nothing evolves" and that there are "no species now on earth

that were not here 8,000 years ago, when the planet was created

in the marvelous span of only six days..."

 

The suffering induced upon my mind by such preaching is worse

than the hostile insect bites -- so, back to pulling weeds and watering

the hibiscus transplants...

 

UD

Edited by Uncle Dale
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The suffering induced upon my mind by such preaching is worse

than the hostile insect bites -- so, back to pulling weeds and watering

the hibiscus transplants...

 

UD

 

It was when I was working in my garden that I too noticed how there was an "order"... a connectiveness...

I love the hibiscus, but my favorite island flower is Plumera (sp.? couldn't find it in the dictionary).  The leis are so fragrant.  I used to talk to my garden.. it bloomed beautifully...

 

GG

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.(sp.? couldn't find it in the dictionary). ...

 

GG

 

 

Yes, we have some of that out behind the condo, as well.

Web search "Pua Melia" to see what kind.

 

The 50-year-old hibiscus was root-bound and at its last gasp,

when we cloned off a couple of the most viable branches.

Luckily the cuttings "took" and there are now two baby bushes,

where mother (r. i. p.) used to flaunt her gaudy blooms.

 

Flowers help alleviate suffering... just a little.

 

UD

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Yes, we have some of that out behind the condo, as well.

Web search "Pua Melia" to see what kind.

 

The 50-year-old hibiscus was root-bound and at its last gasp,

when we cloned off a couple of the most viable branches.

Luckily the cuttings "took" and there are now two baby bushes,

where mother (r. i. p.) used to flaunt her gaudy blooms.

 

Flowers help alleviate suffering... just a little.

 

UD

 

My garden used to be so beautiful and I did all the work myself... but knee problems, etc., prevent me from maintaining the same level though it is still lovely.  What always amazed me, and made me feel humble, almost reverent, was the variety of flowers and how each one was so beautiful with all the petals and other components of the bloom needed to make up the whole.  The one that I always marveled at was the simple little pansy... Each petal has a pattern of color that is needed to complete the "face."  Then there are the fuschias that are marvels, particularly the cream/purple/pink ones.  One of the reasons I can believe in a Creator is when I do look at the numerous varieties of flowers, the myriad of colors, the intricate details, etc... (and all of "nature" actually), I know these are not random.  What a gift to us...

Several years ago, I planted loads of the small crocus bulbs... the last few years I've not watered or taken care of them at all.  Some barely have soil covering them.   Yet every early spring, something within that little bulb is triggered at just the right time and it sends up it little green shoots, reaching for the sun... and suddenly one day as I look out into the yard I see these bright yellow... and rich purple... blooms, turning toward the sun... living it's life cycle of two to three weeks before dying back to lie dormant until the next spring.  Random?  Nah.... 

 

GG

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The universe is deadly to humans and pretty much all organic life forms. Without the protection of the atmosphere and various radiation force fields all animal and plant life would wither and die. All suffering would end.

If I were in charge of the world and could see to it the nothing ever suffered, I wonder how it would be done. Seems to me that there was just such a plan laid out once. We must have been such dolts to vote against it.

I see many parents who spend their energy making sure that their precious little ones never have to experience any pain of disappointment or failure or skin scrapes for that matter. I also see the results of these " bubble" kids when confronted with the universe.

There needs be opposition in all things. There must be a reason for all this opposition. There must be a reason why God does not interfere in every possible situation so as to avoid suffering. God hinted at the reason when He spoke to Joseph while Joseph was in prison.

I can't do anything about the cosmic rays. I can do little about a tornado except run and hide and then help relieve the effects of the aftermath. I can do my small part to feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless. Worrying about the big picture is well above my pay grade.

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Yes, we have some of that out behind the condo, as well.

Web search "Pua Melia" to see what kind.

 

The 50-year-old hibiscus was root-bound and at its last gasp,

when we cloned off a couple of the most viable branches.

Luckily the cuttings "took" and there are now two baby bushes,

where mother (r. i. p.) used to flaunt her gaudy blooms.

 

Flowers help alleviate suffering... just a little.

 

UD

So will hisbiscus transplant from cuttings indoors?  I was shocked the other day to see bright red blooms on my little hibicus tree I bought last summer for the patio after having brought it in when it got a bit cool outside.  It had dropped so many leaves I wasn't expecting it to live, let alone flower.  If it wasn't so delicate I would love to string it up with some fairy lights for Christmas (and just keep them on for the rest of the year).  I don't think I will actually do any transplanting as it is a bit ambitious for me right now, but I love the thought of having a bunch of little hisbicus trees sitting up on the window ledge in a row.

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That we are confronted with problem in this life is a given. What we do about them shows us the what type of people we are.

Pain is inevitable; misery is optional. :)

Edited by Kenngo1969
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So will hisbiscus transplant from cuttings indoors?  I was shocked the other day to see bright red blooms on my little hibicus tree I bought last summer for the patio after having brought it in when it got a bit cool outside.  It had dropped so many leaves I wasn't expecting it to live, let alone flower.  If it wasn't so delicate I would love to string it up with some fairy lights for Christmas (and just keep them on for the rest of the year).  I don't think I will actually do any transplanting as it is a bit ambitious for me right now, but I love the thought of having a bunch of little hisbicus trees sitting up on the window ledge in a row.

I've seen some of those plants, truly on their last leg,

down to just a couple of green leaves remaining,

still use up their remaining energy trying to produce

blossoms. And, since so few ever go to seed, it's

generally a wasted effort on their part.

Yes, you can taking cuttings, and with much tender

care a few will eventually produce roots, even inside

a house -- I think that is the primary way greenhouses

now produce new stock for sale -- at least here where

I live.

So -- if the old plant has totally died, and only a

cutting remains, growing in my garden, is that

clone a continuation of the original plant, or a

brand new individual?

I was never one to profess much about souls

and spirits, but I think I can safely say that plants

do not have them, and thus we need not worry

about whether the clone is a "new creation" or not.

The world's oldest surviving plant is supposed to

be some colony of seaweed, or a similar thing,

still growing in the Mediterranean Sea floor. Is

it an incredibly ancient individual, or just a

community that has lasted through the eons?

Questions for the latter day theologians to ponder.

UD

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