Suffering

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Why do children in Africa starve to death?

africa

In this article we reply to Daniel, one of the readers of our webpage whose comment was:
‘Because if we were to blame God for all the evil in the world and if His job description included fixing it and having no debt, I, for one, would fire Him due to poor performance. If this is all that a supreme being can do, I am not at all impressed, on the contrary, I would accuse Him of negligence in employment, abuse of position and incompetence.
It suffices to see that 6 million children die from starvation and illnesses in Africa every year, babies burnt alive in maternity hospitals (like the case of Giulesti – a maternity hospital in Bucharest, Romania), poverty, diseases, fires, earthquakes, disasters, etc. Let me remind you: 6 million children die from starvation and illnesses in Africa every year. How does He pay his debt to those people?’

You are right, millions of people die from starvation in Africa and around the world every year, but at the same time think about how much food we throw away, think about how greedy we are… about how we eat 4 or 5 times a day…
Think about the fact that we, the ones living in the ‘good’ world have a daily food basket much larger and more expensive than those living in Africa.

Remember that our main concern, the westerners, is to live in comfort and delight, always seeking large salaries, big houses, luxury cars, trips abroad, social life during weekends, ever new and trendy clothing, daily gastronomic whims, expensive hobbies and many others…
Whoever in Europe thinks about the poor in Africa?
What country in Europe gave up the grand prize in their national lottery which usually amounts to hundreds of millions of euros in order to donate it to African children?

We accuse God for keeping His hands in His pockets and letting those children starve to death… but we are the ones to blame, the selfish westerners who forgot about God, who gorge ourselves silly.
How much clothing does Europe throw away?
How many cars does Europe scrap every year although they are between 10 and 20 years old? Cars that could just as well have been used. How many new cars does Europe produce annually despite the fact that the automotive market is overloaded?
How much does Europe produce for the delight and selfishness of its own citizens without thinking about the starving people in the world?
It is we that are the great hypocrites.

The poor on street corners in your city and in mine starve to death because of you and me. When we become aware of his, there will be no more poor people.
How many European billionaires stash their money in bank accounts thinking about what funds to invest them into?
Why do the European Union and the USA that handle billions and billions of euros every year not offer help to poor African countries, selflessly, without expecting anything in return? Why is there so much money for cultural projects but there is never enough money for helping our starving brothers?

If every European citizen gave one euro per year there would be 830 million euros which can be invested in Africa in order to give the poor bread and clean water. If we, European citizens, gave at least the annual interest to our bank deposits, it still would be something extraordinary.
The list of ways to give up at least 10% of the comfort of western living is long, and the aids gathered this way would be enormous. Nobody claims we have to raise the standard of living in African countries to that of European countries, but let us at least offer them basic food and hygiene products.

God is not the problem, I am. In the same way that in a family the parents and their child have the means to live and after a few years, 4 or 5 more children are born to them and they all have enough food to eat, in the large family of our world, if we shared what we have, everyone would have the necessary nourishment.
‘You give them something to eat!’ (Matthew 14, 16) our Saviour says in His Gospel. Yes! Let us give the poor something to eat and after we all shared our bread with the one next to us and when the wheat is over, only then let us cry out to the Lord: ‘Oh, Lord, we are starving, have you forsaken us?’

God’s answer to your question ‘Why do millions of people die from starvation in Africa every year?’ is the answer that He gave to the wealthy man in the Gospel who saw what a good crop he produced and had no room to store it and torn down his barns to make them larger thinking to himself he had enough goods to enjoy himself. God then said to him: ‘Fool! This very night your soul is required of you!’
This ‘Fool!’ describes the madness of the one who cries out to his father that his brothers are starving while his pantries are full of food.

Why do we experience afflictions? Why do we experience illnesses, fires, natural disasters, accidents, etc.? For the same reason that God put an end to the wealthy man’s life. Because we can’t get enough of living just for ourselves and we cause so much suffering to those around us who wait for a little help from our side. Our larceny and greed are the voice of the suffering of the poor constantly crying out to God. ‘In what way can I set before your eyes the suffering of the poor so that you can understand from what sighs you gather your fortunes?’ Saint Basil the Great says.
How much longer should God tolerate us? We murder our babies through abortions because we fear we can’t feed them. Brothers and sisters quarrel with one another because of money and fortune. People trample on one another for the sake of worldly glory and power, no matter who their victims are.
The world experiences afflictions after years and years God has tolerated us in our meanness.
Why does it experience them? So that we don’t think we are the masters of the Earth. So that we don’t forget that the Lord is our Creator and everybody’s Judge and that it is Him that rules the world, not the higher-ups, as we often falsely think.

If the rich don’t reach down into their pockets out of their own free will in order to help the poor, after years of God tolerating them due to His love, He will punish them out of love and they will lose the money in their bank accounts due to bad business, they will spend it on doctors when they become ill, they will withdraw it from their accounts… unwillingly.

In consequence the conclusion is this: the poor starve to death because we the people don’t give them food and don’t help them and the world experiences afflictions because it is only through suffering that people are awakened to reality and stop being selfish.
The land produces enough crops for everybody every year, the barns are always full… but our greed leads to the starvation of others.

(Claudiu Balan)

Translated by Claudia

If the One You Love Hung You on a Cross, Would You Still Be Able to Tell Them that You Love Them?

Perfect love persists even when the one you love treats you with indifference. Perfect love goes the crucewhole length hog. Love… What is love? Seeing eternity gathered in the eyes of the one you love. Praying for the salvation of the soul of the one you love more than you usually pray for your own salvation. What is love? Not caring about how many flaws they have. Nor about where they live, how much money they have, how many cars, what shoe size they wear, what designer clothes they wear and so on. Impossible?

No, this is not impossible when you love. How do you realize that you love? When it is the hardest. When you suffer terribly. When you feel like you have to bear the heaviest cross. Heavy and yet sweet. Excruciating and yet full of comfort. How come? When you say to God during prayer in the evening: ‘I can’t take no more, Lord! Do something! Take my life into Your hands.’ That is the beginning of love. It is only then that you discover true love in all its magnificence. Yes, in the midst of your tears, in the midst of your torments. In your prayer. That is where love is.

There is a great difference between telling and showing somebody that you love them. It is not important to declare your love out loud. Christ has shown you His love. How? ‘Seeing thee pierced with nails upon the Cross’ we all sing on the Great Friday, during Lamentations. And we also sing: ‘The Master of all, is here seen lying dead.’ This is His love shown to us, the sinners. Shown to you and to me. What does Saint Paul the Apostle teach us all? ‘To know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’. He makes his endless love known to us.

If the one you love hung you on a cross, would you still be able to tell them that you love them? You wouldn’t be able to bear a needle pinching your palm, let alone a nail… Would you be able to bear being pierced with nails for the sake of a girl / a boy? Would you be able to taste vinegar mixed with gall? And nonetheless He was. Why? Out of His unspoken love. Naturally, nobody asks you to get hung on a cross for the sake of somebody. Do you know why nobody does that? Because love itself is crucifixion.

In order to get to see that eternity in the eyes of the one you love you have to go through a lot of grievous moments. You have to ask yourself a thousand questions and discover that actually there’s nobody that can give you answers to them. The answer lies within your heart. Nobody can take away what you feel. You must not allow anyone to crush the treasure created within you. Love is not just a feeling. Love is a treasure. Keep it.

I remember writing this in an article one year ago: ‘Love is worse than a case of vascular dementia. I have reached the conclusion that it is not a movie, it is not a moral pain, it is not a torment, it is not a suffering, it is not a whim, it is not a trial, it is not a demon, it is not bitterness. It is death itself. You die as you love. You die when you start to love. There is only a beginning. There is no end. You die searching for this end. Vainly.’ But today during the Divine Liturgy I discovered life. Yes, in that death which is love. There is love in there. You die as you love so that you can later revive. Have you noticed what they sing in the troparion of a woman martyr? ‘I die for Thee so that I may live in Thee.’ How beautiful! This is true love. And you cannot love somebody else if you haven’t still learnt how to love God at least a little.

Perfect love comes to life the moment you renounce yourself for him or for her. You uproot yourself! You forget about yourself! You forget about your needs! You forget you are ill, you forget you have nothing to eat, you forget you stay in the cold, you forget any kind of misfortune that comes your way. Love is alleviation, love is nurture. Love is fire.

You don’t need to go to the one you love and tell them what you feel. Let God work. He knows what lies hidden inside every man. When I was just a child I thought I loved… And how did I prove my love? I patted him on the shoulder wishing him: ‘Merry Christmas!’ Then I ran away without waiting for an answer. It is an incident that now amuses me. I am actually amused at this incident every year before our Savior’s Nativity. But back then that’s what I thought love meant.

You, who will read these lines… I beseech you to do something else! Talk to the Lord about your dear one. Tell Him to do His best in order for that person to feel His Nativity, His Resurrection, His Ascension. After having felt all these, they will definitely feel what you feel for them as well. With Him everything is possible. Don’t forget that. Also don’t forget what is written in the First Epistle General of Saint John the Apostle which is: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment, but he who fears has not been made perfect in love.’ (1 John, 4, 18) Don’t be afraid of anything. Don’t you have any regrets. Dare to love. Dare to love with His love. ‘Love be yours in abundance!’, Saint Jude the Apostle says to us all.

Perfect love persists even when the one you love treats you with indifference. Perfect love goes the whole length hog. Love…

How wonderful love is!

(Georgiana Tofoleanu)

Translated by Claudia

Are you afraid of carrying your cross? Crucify your selfishness!

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 its 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.

 (Claudiu)

Translated by Lăcrămioara Ticu

 

Do you want to stop suffering?

When I’ve read some while ago what Our Lord Christ said: ‘Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy’ (Mt. 5, 7), I haven’t understood very well what He meant. I was mainly thinking that those who would help the poor and would always be charitable would be shown mercy by God on Judgement Day, when they will enter the Heavenly Kingdom. Now I also understand something different besides this promise.

I understand that when I show mercy to someone poor and I help them, then God shows mercy to me as well and He helps me. I also understand that when I am generous to the wretched then God is also generous to me and He doesn’t punish me when I do wrong, instead He forgives me.

Just like I take pity on someone when I see them suffering and I help them, God takes pity on me when I do wrong and He doesn’t punish me. When I’ve been merciful to others, God did not delay in being merciful to me as well.

Some while ago I was thinking how great it would be to stop suffering, to stop having troubles and having a constantly happy life. It seems rather impossible, here on Earth. But I think that this is mostly possible.

Many times I was not punished by God, although I deserved it awfully. I haven’t received troubles from God although I should have. I have never suffered too deeply. I can’t say I’ve had troubles, but only sorrows. I’ve received so much from God and for that I’ve tried to help others the way I could and God has taken pity on me and hasn’t punished me too often, He hasn’t given me suffering, but He forgave me and made me realize that I’ve done wrong.

I think that those who don’t want to suffer must help others who are suffering. Whoever relieves someone’s suffering (hunger, thirst, etc.) will also be kept from suffering by God Who will always watch upon them.

‘Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.’ (Luke 6, 30-33)

 

Do you want not to suffer anymore ?

When I read a little time ago what Christ was saying: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt.5, 7) I did not understand too well what it covers. I thought firstly that those who will help the poor and will always be generous, will shall obtain the mercy of God on the judgment day, meaning that they will enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now I understand that in addition to the promise there is something else.

I understand that when I have mercy to a poor man and help him, then God shall have mercy on me and He will help me in my problems. I also understand that when I am generous with those in need then God is generous to me and He doesn’t punish me when I make a mistake, or when I sin, but forgives me.

When I have compassion seeing someone suffering and I help him, then so God will have compassion on me when I am wrong and He doesn’t punish. When I was merciful with others, neither God was late to be  merciful with me.

I was thinking one day how better it would be not to suffer, not to be troubled, and to have a happy life. Seems pretty impossible here on earth. But I think in most parts this is really possible.

God didn’t punish me often, though, I’ve deserved it. I haven’t received from God troubles or punishments although I should have received them. I have never suffered too much. I cannot say that I had trouble but merely displeasures. I received a lot of gifts from God in my life and for that I am trying to help others as much as I can. This is the reason why I think God has mercy on me and I’m not punished too often, but He forgives me and makes me realize that sometimes I’m wrong and sometimes I’m selfish and sometimes I sin.

I think that whoever does not want to suffer must help the one who suffers, giving him support, love an care. Anyone who raises the suffering (hunger, cold, thirst, etc.) from a person, God will make sure that suffering will avoid him.

“Give to everyone who asks of you and from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

(Balan Claudiu)