I”m so afraid of suffering. I”m afraid even of the most insignificant pain. To me, being cold is the most terrifying physical pain, to others is the toothache. Loneliness itself can be often felt as a physical pain, but whatever suffering would be like, it does not comfort anyone.
We are aware of the fact that if we want the Resurrection, we have to pass over the burden of carrying the Cross as the Lord Christ Himself did. But is this indispensable for everyone? Is there a way to reach salvation without suffering?
Father Seraphim Rose said:
”We, those who call ourselves Christians, have to wait nothing but being crucified. Cause, being a Christian means being crucified now and anyother time since Christ has come for the first time. (…)And our crucifixion must be exposed, so that anyone could see it, cause the Kingdom of Christ is not from this world, and neither the world nor even only one exponent of it can receive it, not even for a moment.”
I wonder what is the meaning of this crucifixion, nowadays?
The Holy Fathers say that suffering comes from the lack of pleasure. We suffer due to our permanent need of feeling pleasure and when this phenomenon is interrupted, for different reasons, here come pain and sadness after the moments in which we were accustomed to tasting the pleasure.
Even though I am arrogant and selfish, sometimes I try, with God’s help, to give more attention to others rather than to myself. If I have something that I want to share, I offer the biggest part to others and keep the smallest to myself. If due to the circumstances some people which belong to a group have to endure inconveniences and others don’t, I place myself into the first one. If I am refused, offended or removed, I simply accept this with calm and I try to withdraw without having any reaction. If one of my superiors act unjustly with me, then I put my head down and walk away without making any scandal. I always try not to trouble with my desires neither to impose myself, even if my authority would allow this ( as a father, husband, client, beneficiary or citizen).
This attitude, which I’ve learned from the Gospel, helped me many times in getting rid of suffering, because from the ethic point of view, I placed myself into a position knowing that I am going to suffer and getting ready for it. I was in peace with it and seemed that every time it happened I was more and more brave in facing it, asking for God’s help. Placing myself into a position that did not disturb anyone, on the contrary, it favoured them, I didn’t have any competition, being not afraid of an ulterior suffering but accepting the maximum of it as a consequence of my position in that group. This was giving me the peace of getting rid of the fear of: ”what if it‘s me who….” I was getting rid of the threatening of being cut throat and this gave me so much peace.
Psychologically speaking, I could say that this kind of attitude helps you to place yourself into the position in which you will get minimum of pleasure with minimum of frustrations… consequently also a minimum of suffering, if we think that suffering is actually the pain which is derived from the unfulfilled desires (needs).
If you first propose yourself in order to get the biggest benefits within a group, then, you place yourself into the position in which you will get the maximum of pleasure but also the maximum of frustrations coming from the fear that others won’t confirm your position and eventually you will get to benefit less or not at all.
If we pay some attention to what is happening all around us, we will notice that where there is a bone, there are also the dogs. The competition is where you can get benefits from. Where money are easily made and benefits come on short term, there is where most of the people are interested in. There, where is pain, suffering, hardworking, stress, long term benefits, there are a few or none interested in. A father from Mount Athos, being asked if he has peace and if he can pray, answered that: ”When you find yourself in poverty, nobody disturbs you”. If you don’t have anything valuable that could attract others, then you won’t be disturbed.
If through the attitude you have, you want money, a superior position, political advantages, if you have persuasion over masses, or if you are able to bring benefits to others, then you will surely have competition and people will pine for a piece of your cake. Putting yourself into such a position, you can easily get suffering instead of what you first desired.
Generally speaking mankind looks for what is palpable, material and here is where the fight begins, and it is normal that after this ”fighting”, those who are involved in it, go out wounded and suffering.
The less importance you give to the material, and more to the spiritual, the least interested you’ll be for the world and you will get less wounded, out of this fight.
In conclusion, we could say that we suffer because we pine for what is material, in our efforts to obtain it.
So, the Cross that all of us have to carry in order to get to the Resurrection, is nothing but leaving everything that is material, or, the continuing attempt and effort to obtain spiritual joys, that come from your relationship with God and the others.
Supposing that there is a way to salvation with a minimum of suffering, that way is life itself, lived without cherishing the material and always relate to Christ’s commandments.
If we want to save ourselves with no suffering, we have to put us into the last position for the benefit of others.
That is why I said if we are afraid of carrying our cross, we have to crucify our selfishness!
We can run away from suffering, transforming the Christ’s Cross into renunciation of all that is material.
In the Tradition of the Orthodox Church, actually the Cross is asceticism, the lack of passion, the fight of getting rid of the sin – as the only one responsible for suffering. The sin makes us selfish and puts us into the psychological position in which we expect maximum of pleasure.
Humbleness instead, puts the man into the position in which he wants nothing, being always satisfied with everything, not wanting to disturb anyone and whose only problem is with himself and never with the others, willing at any time to endure more difficult situations or a lack of pleasure.
Translated by Lăcrămioara Ticu