By Fr Stephen Lim
Suffering is ubiquitous. Obviously antagonistic yet suffering is intimate to all existence, if not life itself. Though some of them are natural, others man-made, like the 1MDB scandal or symptomatic, like Covid-19, and the rest are unknown, but all strike without mercy. Its disparaging effects and after-shocks, though well-known and predictable, yet rendered defenceless all are sitting ducks. All, as it were, pre-programmed to ripple, cripple, and to render our fragile existence all the more perilous. And all on our own account.
Inimitable Human Suffering
Since time immemorial, humanity has been familiar with all sorts and every kind of suffering. That explains our long endurance, but as innocent victims of senseless suffering, it is literally, dying as if without end. Heinous, it is no school to teach or prison to punish but just to devastate all. Narcissistic, it is a slaughter house, it stinks, sinks and writes off without responsibility. It neutralizes and eliminates all resistance, strange but true, it never rests even when all returned to dust. Even with our basic resources in place still we cannot put things right. The writing is all over the wall; exasperating all to despair that either life is just meaningless or Godless!
Defying and most irksome, senseless suffering evokes, provokes and conjures a wide assortment of literature; lamentations, protests and the rest. A sure iconic literature on suffering of the innocent is the ironic Book of Job. As the chosen one, Job had it all: a loving wife, home, seven sons and three daughters and an ever-expanding estate. But hell broke loose on him for no apparent reason other than an impromptu genuine compliment from God Himself: “There is no one on earth as faithful and good as He is” (Job 1:8).
That is all it takes to have messenger after messenger coming to shell shock Job with pointless but irrecoverable terror. Without cure, his wife, literally, tells him to ‘curse God and die.’ (Job 2:9). Job simply has nothing; the only thing left is his child-like trusting reliance on God: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Just as all were taken from him rudely and swiftly, Job was also abruptly restored. Oddly, Job was still clueless why he was the innocent victim.
This is the distinctive trade mark of empty suffering; going through the mill is no warranty for an explanation, let alone an apology. Here, it is puzzling that we remain so adamant and insistent for an explanation on such a non-rational reality. But more perplexing still, somehow, this pertinent human but most elusive quest is significant, if not efficacious in our wellbeing. Simply how else are we to cope with such dreaded reality? Being panic stricken itself will drive us to stifle, gag and even to force feed our incurable malaise with pills, sauna, massage, marathon, acupuncture, or health-diet hopping to tranquilize it. But there is just no cure, or money to buy if off. No quick fix like proven ‘Twelve Steps’ formula, nor workout with a personal trainer to domesticate it. But worse, there is just no end!
Paradox In Being Still: Healing
The whole irony is that, though our dizzy forced fighting and feeding is just hollow, yet we piously go through all its rites and rituals with utmost devotion. Isn’t it true that we are either mad or just dumb! Or we are just naïve; all follow like sheep. Or simply mass hysteria giving in believing and behaving that we are indeed helpless victims. This is our actual human tragedy: perpetuating playing the fake victim. But imagine, a marine in combat zone, while in hot pursuit of an enemy was suddenly shot through the right arm. Will he play the helpless victim! Never. Instead, his well-trained Top-Life-Priority Response kicks-in; urgently and aptly attending to his wound first. It is this crucial Healing Priority Response that all need to nurture in our every encounter with suffering. Precisely, it’s God-Given.
Stopping all forced fighting and feeding, including our fear is itself battle half won. Apparently ridiculous, and impossible to comprehend, on its own accord, but bit by bit, our anguish subsides while all our bad reactions loosen its deadly clasp. In short, only when we quiet down to be in healing mode that kick-starts our built-in self-healing mechanics. This is no surprise, all this while doctors and health experts tell us that nothing heals, except our human body. Even all the latest technology in medical science only aids or enhances our already impeccable self-healing capability. Besides, being still opens us up to see our wound and vulnerability as a ‘Thorn ticket of being made for the Eternal’
1. No matter how inexplicable our suffering, we just have no excuse to despair. Endowed with in-born and built-in self-healing spirited body, being God-made and never man-made, indemnifies us from becoming helpless victim.
Quiet down, and in trusting reliance on our self-healing property of our spirited body is so soothing. This is no magic or chance but all made fully obvious in our Pascal Mystery. Also attested by innumerable living witnesses, including the likes of Morrie; “Learn how to die, and you learn how to live”
2 . Here we are never a master, but all, without exception, are beggars.
In suffering, it is most ironic to be still, yet so iconic in healing. Simply, like our own Gratuitous Life itself, can never be mastered or conquered, but in being found. Healing is never meant for us to explain, but amazingly just to encounter only essentially in letting go.
1 Kennedy, E. The Pain of Being Human. (New York, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1954) , 13.
2 Albom, M. Tuesday with Morrie. (London, Doubleday, 1998) , 83.