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GIVING MEANING TO SUFFERING

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Rev. Andrew J. Demotses

St Paul wrote to the Christians living in Corinth, "God comforts us in our sorrow so that we might comfort others . . . . in their time of tribulation." (2 Cor. 1:4). In my own personal experience, I have discovered the truth in these majestic words. I have learned that out of the painful crucible of my own suffering, I was able to find within me a well-spring of strength that I never knew I possessed. I acquired a deepened understanding of the human condition, a greater sensitivity and
compassion for the sufferings of others, and a heightened ability to share with others my conviction in the sureness of ultimate victory. Indeed, I would be reluctant to avoid the trials of my past if, at the same time, it meant that I would have to surrender their many personal gifts that now have come to grace and enrich the whole of my life.

Victor Frankl, recalling his experience in a German concentration camp wrote in his book Man's Search For Meaning these wonderful words of affirmation: "The dawn was gray around us, gray was the sky above, gray the snow in the pale light of dawn, gray the rags in which my fellow prisoners were clad,
and gray their faces. I was struggling to find reason for my suffering, my slow dying. In a last violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious yes in answer to my questions of the existence of ultimate purpose." At that moment, Frankl's profound suffering taught him a lesson equally as profound - that the ladder of hope has nothing to stand on here below; it is held up from above and thus becomes available to all who might reach out to find it.

The pain and suffering, we experience are unique to our own person, and so are the myriad lessons they teach us. Out of their depths, however, come common treasures which can strengthen our character, sharpen our understanding, and order our priorities aright. For each of us, therefore, no suffering is without purpose. God allows us the experience of suffering
in the hope that we will then share with others what we have learned, and become a source of blessing and help to them. Let us be open to God's comfort so that in the good time of his choosing, He can then comfort still others through each of us.

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