As each day’s headlines pass, new thoughts arise on the topic of suffering, a subject with many viewpoints. Mine is just one. . .
Are we meant to suffer? Is suffering in this life what was really intended? How do we juxtapose personal happiness alongside societal pain? How do we reconcile a gorgeous sunrise with personal tragedy? Questions way too ponderous for the scope of this writing, especially when the varying theological perspectives are overlaid on it as well, so I won’t even try. Mine is just a simple reflection on the beach. . .
Our prolonged stay in Florida has given me the opportunity to jog on the beach in warmer weather for this time of year than what I would be experiencing in Maine. I’m not a hot weather athlete so it is more trying for me to jog in the heat. As I spent my special time with HaShem this week running through the waves to cool off, I could still enjoy the beauty of Him, and yet, I was not in that mindless, selfless zone as compared to when the weather is less extreme. On more moderate weather days, I just kick into that place where nothing is on my mind but listening to and talking with God, seeing Yeshua in amazing new ways, as compared to this week consciously having to think about and feel the heat. Granted, not a real suffering, yet HaShem used the contrasting experience to bring forth these thoughts.
Sometimes suffering or hard times can bring us closer to HaShem. During my “hot run”, HaShem reminded me of the multidimensional nature of the experience of suffering. The challenge of the situation showed me I had more endurance than I realized. I could improve the situation by my choice to cool off in the water more frequently. I gained perspective to value the easy runs when compared to this more challenging run and appreciate more deeply the easy ones. It allowed me to get in touch with my physical self and not overdo it, to make wise decisions to care for the gift of this life I have been given, all perspectives and tools, choices, we are given even in times of hardship.
I personally don’t feel we have been put on this earth to suffer. Yeshua took the hit on that for us. Suffering has a place. I just don’t see it as the landing place although it serves important purposes. Through hardship we learn many important lessons, not the least of which are to learn from our mistakes and to make good choices that can sometimes alleviate the suffering, improve the situation, or make a difference next time. We learn there are times of pain, whether emotional, physical, spiritual, or societal, and times of joy, often stretching into whole seasons of each, or times when they co-exist. We’re often shown how even the worst suffering, over time or even after years, can reveal redemption and deeper understanding of this sometimes inscrutable life journey. We hope for the lessons learned, or improvements, disappointed when not able to see or experience them in this realm.
Being Jewish, despite the millennia of suffering, or perhaps because of it, culturally there is a deep drive to enjoy life. L’chaim! Out of the deepest despair the call to life rises. Ingrained in our neshamas is the right to live a life filled with plenty – goodness, joy and love. We are put here to make a difference in this world, to make it a place better than we found it, tikkun olam. This is a mission not only for the world, but for each of us personally as well.
As you try to balance the seemingly overwhelming societal, COVID-19 stress, and perhaps personal challenges this week, I encourage you to temper their effect on you by your choices of how to see and what to do about them. Don’t give into the seemingly inevitable suffering other than to be reminded to do something about it. Watch the replays of the peaceful protest nearby in Boca Raton and elsewhere where the National Guard knelt side by side with the protesters as a balance to the many coverages of the violent riots. See the violent protests as a call to action, as a reset perhaps on previous disconnects from the reality of what it feels like to walk in your black brother’s shoes. Seek the untold stories of hope and change. Remember groups of people cannot be summed up in simple soundbites. Stay steadfast to fight injustice rather than be complacent or discouraged by setbacks. Talk meaningfully with others. Be a support. Feel the angst and pain, but not as an end in itself.
Work toward bringing personal joy into your lives. Don’t assume unhealthy relationships are intended, but rather, make choices that work toward building a life less obscured from the reality of His Presence. Although Abba used my run in the heat to make me aware of the worthwhile benefits gained by the challenging circumstances , my jogs on more temperate days provide an environment that has no impediment to my ability to intimately connect. When we are dealing with difficult situations, our ability to be most intimate with our Creator is often diminished, unless we have a worldview that we are in this life meant to suffer, with which I don’t agree.
In those dark times, when we cast ourselves at His feet, we do feel His presence and He is with us intimately in every step. And yet for me, and I think deep down for all of us, in such situations, without working to a more livable resolution, the energies needed to survive the situation are no longer as available to feel the breath by breath joy we otherwise experience in our relationship with Yeshua. We have to work a little harder to rest peacefully in His arms , just as the hot weather, the struggle, impeded my typical relaxed time with HaShem. Both times are our reality. Both bring us insights and closeness to God. The decisions and actions we take determine in which intimacy, and personal reality, we live day to day.
The choices are ours.
Choose life. Choose good. Choose justice. Choose joy. Choose love. Choose Him.