Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More than You Can Bear?

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:

  1. Suffering exists.
  2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
  3. Suffering ceases when attachment ceases.
  4. 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 :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Where have I gone wrong?  (That's really more of a rhetorical question, but if you have thoughts, I'd love to read your comments.)

Posted as part of Everything But the Kitchen Sink, Rednesday.


Talei said...

Well, I'm not one for giving relationship advice but I will say that sometimes you have to trust fate. And things do seem to happen for a reason, usually better. ( at least in my experience).

I do hope your week improves! ;-)

LV said...

The material things and how we sometimes put more faith in earthly goods than the heavenly ones. All our problems are not caused by God. Most of the time we create our own. We were never promised a perfect life. A lot of the suffering is not God made, but man made. We were all given common sense, but some fail to use it. The here after, is a very deep and hard to understand. You have to have faith.

Tracy said...

I just found your blog and thought it ironic, since my husband is studying for his first apologetics class and we've been discussing Dawkins and Hutchins and other atheistic works that ask similar questions. We are Christians, so I'll try to give you my answer as best I can. As far as the tithing issue, I totally disagree with whoever said God wants you to give till your broke. In the New Testament, the believers gave "as they were able." And the command in the New Testament is to give cheerfully. God wants gratitude not groveling. Second, the issue of suffering: God allows but does not cause suffering. Sometimes it is the result of sin, or more accurately, the result of a world that is in a fallen state. It's not the ideal that God created, though he promises to one day restore it to that. Also, "working together for good" is a promise that, to those who believe in Christ, those trials will work toward refining our character. The good is that we will be conformed to the character (i.e. image) of Christ. Why do we suffer? Some of those questions may just have to wait for eternity. I do hope your week improves. And I'm always open for further discussion if you want to email or get in touch.

Ani said...

Wow, thanks to each of your for your interesting and insightful comments. I guess I just have a hard time accepting that there are questions that are mysterious that we might not know the answers to in this life.

If God is all-powerful, why doesn't he relieve us of our suffering? I completely understand the ideas of original sin, the fallen state of the world, etc. But if God has the power to one day redeem us, why not now? It can't be that man is more powerful that God or that man's problems are more powerful than God. And if Satan in any way is responsible for suffering, I don't believe that Satan could be more powerful than God.

I've heard some people say that God lets suffering happen to teach people a lesson. But why do seemingly good people suffer? And since the flood and the Tower of Babel, if things haven't gotten better, then doesn't that mean that God's method of "teaching lessons" isn't working?

Mimi said...

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