What Attitude Should We Take Toward Suffering

In "Voices of Faith," religious leaders answer readers' questions.

We all know it

Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery, Kansas City, Mo.: The Buddha recognized 2,500 years ago that life is characterized by suffering. There's not a person alive who has not experienced suffering first hand. The Buddha recognized that life is problematic because everything in this phenomenal world is impermanent.

We all desire pleasure, joy and permanence. We desire things that we can't have or things we once had but have lost. Even our thoughts, feelings and emotions are impermanent and constantly changing. Inevitably we experience frustration, unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

The Buddha also recognized that it is neither things nor situations that cause suffering, but it is the clinging nature of our minds. We want from life what it can never provide — pleasure and security undisturbed by change or loss.

Therefore, instead of mistakenly thinking that the causes of our suffering are things outside of ourselves, we need to examine our minds. When we bring our awareness within so that it doesn't seek anything external we discover a natural sufficiency that is stronger than any sensation.

Toward the suffering of others we should extend compassion. The 8th century Indian saint Shantideva said, "All those who suffer in the world do so because of a desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others."

Many reasons for it

The Rev. R.L. Baynham, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kan.: This question provides an opportunity to review many answers. Those who believe in the Bible will recognize that suffering is an age-old problem for man. Much of humanity's suffering is the result of many factors. From the Christian view, man suffers because he is not in the right relationship with God, or the suffering may be a result of God's will for our lives. We also suffer because we make bad choices, or our fathers and mothers before us made bad choices.

Suffering comes for many reasons. Those who take a positive attitude toward suffering will discover many solutions that will provide one's ability to see greater value in this part of their lives. When the sufferer looks within and discovers that God is there, the power to overcome is really a blessing. When the sufferer looks without and does not blame others for his or her plight, they are able to assist others. When one looks up to the God that created us, we find the assurance that God will take care of our needs.

Suffering is difficult, and coming to terms with suffering can be exhausting, but one can come find renewed strength in his or her relationship with one another and with God. Job of the Bible did it, and if we believe, we can, too.