In a perfect world, there would never be any suffering or sorrow. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Our world was forever marred by the sin of Adam and Eve. It was their sin that condemned each of us to a life that would include suffering, sorrow, and death.
You may have seen news reports about several billionaires who have formed organizations that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development to find the secret to immortality. While they believe that it’s possible to live on Earth forever, regardless of the amount of money they spend, their attempts at immortality will always fail. They will never be able to remove the stain of original sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve. Each of those billionaires will eventually suffer and die.
The most concise definition of the word “suffer” is “to undergo or feel pain or distress.” Notice that the definition says that it is the “undergoing” or “feeling” of pain or distress that causes suffering. Pain is not a necessary component of suffering. There are other reasons that people suffer. In fact, most of our suffering is caused by mental, emotional, or psychological issues that adversely affect us.
The synonyms for suffering reveal the many factors that contribute to suffering. Some examples are hardship, distress, misery, wretchedness, adversity, tribulation, agony, anguish, trauma, torment, torture, affliction, sadness, unhappiness, regret, grief, gloominess, mournfulness, dread, anxiety, insecurity, heartache, heartbreak, and stress.
While we ordinarily forget physical pain (when it’s not chronic), we remember suffering for the rest of our lives. The mother who loses a child never forgets the suffering she went through. When someone humiliates you, you never forget the emotional suffering you experienced when you were humiliated. And the betrayal of a friend or a spouse is suffering that is never forgotten.
Now that we’ve defined suffering, what is sorrow?
The definition for sorrow is “a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.”
Notice that by its very definition, sorrow is an aftereffect of suffering.
Without suffering, there is no sorrow.
Here are some everyday examples of suffering that can lead to sorrow:
● An argument with someone you care about.
● A personal health problem that afflicts you or a family member or friend.
● A mental health problem that afflicts you or a family member or friend.
● A breakdown of a relationship between you and your spouse, child, parent, or other family member.
● Car problems that keep you from going about your business.
● Financial problems.
● Criticism from a family member, friend, or colleague.
● A problem with your employer.
● A problem with your employee.
● Worry about one or more of the people you love.
● A humiliation that you bring upon yourself or that is caused by someone else.
● A feeling that you’re overwhelmed and that there is no end in sight.
● The frustration of dealing with a traffic jam, when you’re a hurry to get somewhere.
● A lack of respect from your son or daughter.
● Your body is no longer capable of doing the things that it used to do.
● You know you need to lose a substantial amount of weight, but you never do anything about it.
● Frustration that is caused by other people failing to do what they told you they would do or who fail to live up to your expectations.
● Mental, emotional, or physical fatigue.
● Someone you love dies.
From that list, it appears as though we spend a good part of our lives in sorrow because of suffering that is, in most cases, unavoidable.
Is there anything we can do to alleviate the sorrow that we experience from suffering?
The answer is yes. I’ll cover that topic next week.