St. Innocent of Alaska Monastery
9452 Hazelton, Redford, Michigan




  for the Journey

  Along THE WAY




 My Lord and my God —

Here I am again, falling down before Your Holy Presence. Again I offer myself and my whole life to You, trying to trust You in everything, trying to trust that, basically, You know what You are doing with Your world and with Your creatures. Lord, I am really wrestling, trying to understand suffering. It almost seems as though the nature of existence is to suffer. Can suffering be a part of Your plan? Is suffering unavoidable? Do You want people to suffer, or do You simply allow suffering? It seems to me that trying to figure out why there is suffering has occupied the thoughts of people throughout the centuries, and perhaps everyone who has ever lived has wrestled with the issue of "Why is there suffering and pain?" 
There is the physical pain of disease, injury and birth defects. There is the far worse pain of emotional and physical abuse, especially at the hands of parents and family members who are supposed to, or even claim to "love" the person being abused. Then there is the intentional ridicule and demeaning of others that inflicts so much pain, as well as the unintentional, thoughtless insults and ridicule that also hurt so much. Oh Lord, Your children endure such pain and suffering! Why? Even when You accepted the humiliation of coming among us as a mortal man, You, the Creator, were struck by Your creatures, ridiculed, mocked, stripped and subjected to the most humiliating death there was at those times — being hung on a cross to die a slow, agonizing, tortured death. And You tell us to take up our crosses daily and to be willing to be crucified! This really sounds like a bunch of foolishness in our society that worships its comforts and pleasures, its 'easy fixes' and 'drive-through' conveniences, and its various sources of artificial 'highs.' But, if You, Lord, accepted such suffering, is suffering somehow a part of Your plan? Please help me to understand. How do we, or can we, understand, for example, the parent's grief at the loss of a child, intentional cruelty, or sadistic acts of brutality?

I wonder whether it is possible that the question, "Why is there suffering?" is the same as the question, "Why is there evil?" According to Your Holy Word, when You created the world, You declared that everything was good. So what happened? How did the suffering get in? Of course, it doesn't take much to answer that! You have told us in Your Holy Word, that through the prompting of the Evil One, Your children, whom You created to have continual communion with You in Love and Joy and Peace, disobeyed You and decided that they knew better than You. And thus Your whole magnificent creation fell into disharmony and disunity. Enter death, pain and suffering! So, Lord, how can we make sense out of this in our lives, now? Do we have to simply accept that pain and suffering have entered Your world and ours because of our own sin, by our own free-will choice to follow evil instead of good, to put ourselves and our own will as number one in our lives, instead of putting You at the center of our lives as Numero Uno?

Maybe this isn't such a bad idea after all. I mean, so many people blame You for everything 'bad' that happens. We hear people frequently saying things such as, "Why is God doing this [bad thing] to me?" "What have I done to deserve this?" On the other hand, people seem so frequently to take all the credit for themselves when things appear to go well. Strange, strange indeed! But then, if pain and suffering, illness and death, were not created by You, but are the result of the evil that we humans do ourselves, is there any benefit to suffering — any good that comes from it? I think of my life, of the lives of many whom I know and know of, and think of the lives of many saints, even human history as a whole, and it seems that, in general, good comes out of what appeared to be bad. Is this perhaps rather like getting born? Being born is good, whether physically or spiritually, but it sure does hurt! But then, isn't that what You said to Adam and Eve when they left the garden of Your Presence: because they broke communion with You by their pride and disobedience — there would be pain and sweat and toil in child-birth and labor.

Is it possible, Lord, that we could actually look at suffering as a blessing? The lives of so many saints speak about how the holy ones even rejoiced at being asked to acept pain or deprivation, because they would be imitating Christ's Way. But maybe the good to be welcomed from pain is that it provides us with opportunities to overcome our own self-centered egos. Lord, it seems that once we stop fighting against and complaining about our pain and suffering (oh, poor me!), that the pain no longer has such control over us. And it seems that once we can let go of our self-centered focus on ourselves and our suffering, that then we can cultivate true humility. And once we can focus on You, instead of on ourselves, then we can rely on and trust in You. If, in our suffering and pain, we feel that we have no control over what is afflicting us, then perhaps we could make that 'quantum leap': to stop relying on ourselves, and rely on You instead.  Perhaps this is exactly what You meant when You told Your Apostle, St. Paul, that in his weakness, Your strength is manifested and glorified.

If we could look at suffering from this perspective, Lord, it seems that we really could rejoice in suffering and see it as a blessing. Then You could use it as a means of helping us to overcome our self-centerness, and to learn obedience and humility, for these are the prerequisites for being united with You, Lord, in continual prayer and communion. All this is certainly polar opposite to what we are 'programmed' to believe, but then it seems that the closer we come to You and True Reality, the more Truth is revealed as being paradoxical and 'foolish' in the eyes of the world.

Please, Lord, grant me the grace I need (and I sure need a lot of it), to bless Your Holy Name for everything that You send to me — the supposed 'good' and supposed 'bad.' Please, Lord, grant me the grace I need to thank You as much for pain and suffering and things that appear to be 'bad,' as for all the things that appear to be 'good.' Please, Lord, grant me the grace I need to learn obedience and humility from accepting whatever You send to me in Your Infinite Wisdom, so that I might say with Job, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord!"  Amen.