18 November 2009

The Meaning of Suffering

It seems that in today's society, we are constantly bombarded with people telling us that we deserve one thing or another, whether it be a new house, a new car, fancy vacation, money, insurance, or, as we often see on television and in the movies, sexual gratification as well as . All of these things are nice to have, and maybe something we did warrants some time off or a massage or some chocolate. It seems to me, however, that there is an underlying theme. Whether or not we deserve something, we are marketed up and down and back and forth that we not only deserve to have whatever the item may be, but we deserve it now and by any means possible.

With the idea that we deserve things now and however we can get them comes the rise of selfish ideals and principals as well as the loss of patience and the wisdom and self-discipline learned from simply waiting to get the desired item, and possibly the most important thing lost is the satisfaction gained not merely by receiving the desired item but also by having to go through the suffering and self-denial and finally reaching that which you desired to begin with.

As evident by our current economic disaster, the drive-through mentality that most people from Generation X and on have is detrimental to the core of American Society. We don't like suffering, and, as we're constantly told by the media, we shouldn't have to suffer.

Take the housing market for example. For years, we've marketed that everyone deserves to own a house. Affordability? Well, that's a tiny insignificant detail. We'll force banks to lend out money to those who can't prove that they can afford it - in fact, quite the opposite: they prove that they CAN'T afford it - just so that they can have a home now instead of dealing with whatever debt they need to pay off and saving for the purchase later.

When my parents first got married, they lived with my father's mother for a period of time before they were able to purchase a trailer. They saved the money to purchase a small home while living in that trailer. After that, when I was 5, (after having been married for nearly 20 years, I might add) my parents were able to purchase a larger home, where we lived for another 17 years. They HAD to save. When they finally purchased the home that we lived in from Kindergarten until after I graduated from college that was a moment that they were able to thoroughly enjoy because they were finally able to afford a nice home for our family to live in.

Our aversion to suffering and accepting the consequences of our actions has caused not only a huge mortgage bubble and collapse of that bubble, but several government "bailouts" so that businesses wouldn't have to deal with their failure because of their irresponsibility. These "bailouts," which weren't given to these companies from an excess of funds held by the government but produced excessive printing of meaningless dollar bills, which subsequently lead to a huge devaluation in the dollar.

Not only have we been led to economic problems by our "gotta get it now" mentality but we have also well undervalued the gift of life. In our society, sexual gratification is pushed on our population as though all people deserve to have sex and have it now. Our society tells us "Why wait? I'm not ready to have real intimacy with someone, so I'll just use him or her to satisfy my sexual needs and, since I'm not ready to have children, if I/she becomes pregnant, we'll just have an abortion." Our need to have everything now has caused us to devalue life to the point where we not only use people to make us "feel good" but, when that good feeling goes away and we're left with the consequences of our actions, we consider the life of a child as a "burden" that can be easily discarded.

Our society asks, what value is suffering? While our society spreads the words of the Evil One under the guise of concern for and care for others, the crucifix tells us something else. Gazing upon the image of Christ crucified, we see the truth and know the value of suffering. Through his suffering and death, Christ opened the gates of heaven and allowed us the opportunity to live eternally with Him in Heaven after life is over for us. Every day, we find a reason to go through the suffering because we know that by Christ's suffering, our suffering is no longer meaningless. Christ freely and willing suffered for us, to remove all stains of sin, if we but take up our own crosses and follow him. Only then do we know TRUE joy and pleasure and happiness. Because of Christ, we no longer suffer in vain.

There IS meaning to suffering, and if we let the world sway us into believing that we have to have everything now, we need but look at that one image, the image of Christ suffering for us, to know that, in time, a little patience and little suffering can be well worth the wait.