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The Value of Suffering

"Life is what you make it,” is a saying that is trite enough, and that contains whole volumes of philosophy, though the tendency of most of us is perhaps to cast the blame for suffering and misery upon others, unmindful of or willfully blind to the fact, that we get from without much of what is contained within ourselves; in fact, the very evils we often deplore and exclaim against, are but reflections of our own bad qualities.

But all are not philosophers, and all are not given to seeking either within themselves or without for the cause of human suffering. Although the soul is naturally optimistic, it often cast down under a burden of physical suffering, and the brighter and more cheering aspects of life recede away, and one feels that life is but a weary grind between the stones of circumstances. Then,

"I falter where I firmly trod,
And, falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar stairs
That slope through darkness up to God,

"I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hope."

Such a cry goes up from the weary and heavy laden, and anxiously the soul enquires, "Watchman, what of the night?" For the night seems long, without moon or star, and in the storm and stress, when the soul’s barque is dismantled, and the sails torn, the helmsman strains his vision and hopes.

It is refreshing then if we can get to understand the meaning of suffering, for by it one realizes that that which we have lamented, often causes the greatest joy. That hidden in the womb of darkness is the soul of the coming day; that the desperate climb and toil of life has strengthened the moral and spiritual part of our beings, so that we can look with calmness and trust to the future.

But joy, peace, love—how these things are longed for! But the mistake we make is that we want them without labor, as if the muscles can be developed by sitting calmly in our armchair and imagine we are strong.

These things are the reward of labor, and the novitiate who is starting out on the pathway of spiritual attainment must be prepared to meet with difficulties; not only prepared to meet them, but to learn to welcome them. Times of trial are made occasions for lamenting over past pleasures, and gloomy forebodings for the future. But it is unwise; the Master looking on the hurrying and hustling of daily life can only compassionate. For he sees how very limited is the outlook that is bounded by merely human suffering and joy. What is needed is to retire within and meditate on the meaning of those things which we encounter. The result will be fuller illumination accompanied by a sense of peace that will keep the soul calm amidst the billows of earthly trial.

Never let us rest in the present, neither look anxiously to the future. “Life is what we make it," and the thoughts of today will appear tomorrow as character.

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W. H. Evans

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