Friday, September 02, 2005

Degrees of Suffering

Even before the Katrina disaster, I would often think about the weight of suffering that individuals carry in life, considering those whose load seems lighter than mine and those whose load seems too difficult to bear. Sometimes suffering is a consequence to our actions, but many times both blessing and suffering are randomly undeserved.

My friend, whose financial abundance is enviable, has a broken heart over choices her adult children are making. Another friend, physically beautiful and sophisticated, suffers from loneliness and a broken marriage. Other friends, blessed with happy homes and relationships, endure struggles with chronic pain and serious health conditions.

Pain and suffering are no respectors of person. What fairness is there to the situations into which we are born? Do we take for granted the simple fate we have of being born into advantage beyond what many others in the world have? Can we even imagine carrying the burdens of poverty, war, and ruin?

I'm afraid we have drifted into an attitude of entitlement, believing it is our right to have the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. Our generation has never experienced truly difficult economic times. Like the Laodiceans, we could say we have need of nothing.

While there was widespread panic concerning Y2K, there seems to be little acknowledgement that we are now in for a serious economic adjustment, both nationally and personally. It seems like people are in a bubble of denial, not recognizing that the bill for our overindulgence is soon coming due.

Being somewhat self-centered, the pain we experience personally seems most important to us. As our security and comforts are threatened, will we cry of our suffering? Do we understand that we don't necessarily deserve the ease we have enjoyed? I hope that like Paul, I will be able to say that I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

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