The Soteriology of Suffering

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I’ve been reading Sharon Salzberg’s book “Faith,” which is about faith from the Buddhist perspective. In it she says that “suffering is the proximate cause of faith.” She writes that it is the “dark night of the soul,” the utter despair we feel when faith has left us that we can turn into ourselves and towards God, by doing as Buddhist teacher U Pandita says, “Be[ing] mindful of the pain,” in order to allow it to renew and spring board us into faith.

In Buddhist thought and theology, pain and suffering serve an ultimate purpose of opening us up to new experiences, renewal of faith, and above all, teaching us gentle, loving, kind compassion. The turmoil of our pain and suffering, in Buddhist practice, serves as the conduit of compassion.

Couple this with the Cross of our Christian faith then it makes sense that the way to life is through death and that suffering plays a drastic, albeit necessary, role in our salvation and lives!

Today, 5 months and 4 days after burying my mother, our father (pictured with me above as a young lad) reposed in the Lord. At this point, the suffering this year has wrought upon me and my family makes it hard to explain how I feel!

Numb, but not numb. Just so emotionally drained from everything this year.

It makes angry at addiction, but empathic to the both of my parents! It’s hard to feel both grief and compassion at the same time, but in the light of Christ’s holy crucifixion I know that this is all a part of life’s grander scheme.

That regardless of how angry I feel! How much I cry! How much I want to give up faith! How much I wanna become hardened! Forget it all!

I must turn to my source of faith and seek to learn compassion! I must turn to God, His Church, the prayers, the Saints, the icons, the Holy Mother, and the ancient ways! These are my guideposts along this journey!

In the end, regardless of how tearless I feel after so much death and suffering, that I must, I HAVE TO, tap into how it can make me compassionate and gentle as a human being and a hopeful counselor!

We all suffer! Suffering is part of soteriology! And it’s the embrace of the suffering of Christ we can embrace our own suffering allowing an inward and internal change to occur in our hearts that makes us more faithful.

More kind.
More compassionate.
More gentle.
More hopeful.
More resilient.
More human.

May the memories of my parents be eternal, and may their deaths open me up to the gentle, caring compassion of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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