Many Christians have told me, "Remember, God never gives you more than you can bear." My own parents told me this. Ricky has told me this, and I have told him. I used to believe this before I had any problems. It's so easy to believe when you live a nice life in the suburbs and aren't suffering so much.
I have not yet been able to find a satisfactory answer from the Christian point of view for why people suffer. Is it because of Satan? Our own sins? Is it because God wants us to suffer? When I read about tithing, there were some people in Tithing: Test Me in This who suggested that God likes it when we tithe to the point that we don't know how we will buy enough food to eat. Why would God like that!? Usually the answer is circular logic about God making us subservient or working in mysterious ways. It's hard for me to reconcile the idea of a good and merciful god making good people suffer. True, you never know whether a person is really "good" or not in his or her heart, but still it's a fact that good people suffer.
Buddhist beliefs take a different approach to suffering, which makes a little more sense to me. The Buddhist view of suffering is contained in the Four Noble Truths, which are something along the lines of:
- Suffering exists.
- The origin of suffering is attachment.
- Suffering ceases when attachment ceases.
- Freedom from suffering can be attained by practicing the Eightfold Path.
This type of explanation for suffering has been a lot more palatable for me. It explains that everyone suffers due to attachment, no matter how pious or "good" a person is. The problem is our way of thinking. Our delusions cause us to be attached to certain goals, outcomes, people, material items, etc. When we cannot have what we want, we suffer.
My whole life I've worked at non-profits. Last year I quit my job to take care of my disabled mother. I thought working for non-profits was the right thing to do, even though I've been poor my entire adult life, as a result of that choice. I also thought it was the right thing to do to give up my life that I had before and care for my mother, who can't care for herself anymore. During these times, I have suffered so much, and I have seen nothing but suffering around me. I have tried to follow the Eightfold Path, but the end to suffering is not an overnight process.
Today my ex-boyfriend Ricky contacted me. It was the saddest conversation I've ever had with him. In my view, he has suffered much more than I have. He said that he loved me, but there were just too many factors working against us to have a successful relationship. Right after I quit my job, he was laid off from his job. This hurt the most. I know that the problem is my attachment to the dream of having a good relationship and getting married. And it's not just an attachment to the dream of doing those things, it's an attachment to the dream of specifically doing those things with Ricky. But isn't a girl allowed to dream? Suffering is a hard pill to swallow.
It is also very hard to pick yourself up and keep going. When you try so hard to live a "good" life, it's frustrating when you still hurt so much and are still so poor. I am alive and still have my health. I have a roof over my head. I am delighted and feel fortunate. But today as I spent five hours in court with Keith, I really began to think that if God exists, he has given me more problems than I can bear. The icing on the cake was when I came home and discovered that :
- Despite my efforts not to be poor, I improperly configured my Amazon Associates account, pointing all of the links on my website to someone else's account since I opened this blog.
- Google AdSense has not given me credit for the last several clicks on my ads, even though these clicks came from search engine traffic and in my mind were legitimate clicks that I should have been paid for. I'm noticing an increasing discrepancy between my Statcounter.com statistics and the statistics and payments from AdSense.