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The Question of Suffering

When terrible atrocities happen in society or people experience dreadful traumas or illnesses or the death of loved ones or there are appalling natural disasters, people often ask ‘Why?’. It is very rarely that can we answer the question in a satisfactory way. Perhaps it is the wrong question?

Instead of asking ‘Why did this happen?’ it is sometimes more helpful to ask, ‘How can I deal with this?’

People often ask God ‘Why?’ People frequently say ’Why me?’. These questions can lead us to a dead end, frustration and anger.

There is an old hymn written by Love M. Willis in 1859 which was sung regularly in school assemblies in the 1960s and may well still be sung occasionally in churches across the country today which provides a clue as to how suffering can be approached. This is the Hymn;

Father, hear the prayer we offer: Nor for ease that prayer shall be, But for strength, that we may ever Live our lives courageously.

Not forever in green pastures Do we ask our way to be, But the steep and rugged pathway May we tread rejoicingly.

Not forever by still waters Would we idly, quiet stay; But would smite the living fountains From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness, In our wanderings be our Guide; Through endeavour, failure, danger, Father, be Thou at our side.

Let our path be bright or dreary, Storm or sunshine be our share; May our souls in hope unweary Make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.

It is the first verse, in particular, that may lead into a helpful way of approaching suffering for those who believe there is a God. It needs no explanation.

For those who have no faith, perhaps we should accept that suffering is a part of human experience and the secret is to find ways of dealing and coping with it because asking ‘Why?’ is usually fruitless.

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