THE MINISTRY OF SUFFERING
Spirit loq. We are grieved that you do not practice all that we have taught you, that you show to us selfish in self-seeking, that your actions are not in harmony with your faith. Why is this? Can you not see that there is lack of strength in such a life, in such manifest inconsistency? It is not reading, nor teaching which you need, it is practice!
Ques. How do I fail?
Ans. You fail ever in love; in dealing with all around you, you fail in love. Your days are planned solely in reference to yourself, and to what you vainly imagine is the advancement of self. You admire self-sacrifice in others: but you carefully avoid it in yourself. You cannot teach the world before you have learnt yourself. Neither would it be of any advantage to the world to learn truths which have not been intimately bound up with action, which have not resulted in action in the life of the Teacher.
Your days should be spent in doing good, in making every hour of your life of real service to others, first, to the small circle in which you live, secondly to a larger circle outside your home.
Never consider gold; never consider even that it has claims on your time, except claims to be of service in the lives of others, who need what it can give.
You ask to know of poverty, of suffering, and why it is that in the lives of many, both seem necessary evils; you ask whether they are truly evil in their effects on those who endure them. There is a deep reason why those who are born in surroundings of poverty and suffering should be so born, and that reason lies in the antecedents of their previous development. You ask “Is the suffering and deprivation of the body needful to the development of the soul?” And you say to yourself “If this is so, then shall I be relieved from the unpleasant duty of ministering to the lives of these poor creatures whose surroundings are so distasteful to me.” Now, suffering of all kinds borne in a spirit of rebellion, of soreness and unwillingness, of non-comprehension of its holy import to the life of the soul, can be of small value to anyone. Whereas sympathy, in drawing out the aspirations of the soul, in lifting it to higher and purer spheres, not only gives new life to the soul, but actually redeems and counteracts the suffering of the body, and throws a light on this very suffering, which may make it of inestimable value to the sufferer. Thus do we answer your question of double meaning.
What is suffering? Pause and consider it in its elements. Is it not the non-adaptation of the body to its surroundings? You suffer when you exert yourself for others, when you place your body in unpleasant surroundings; but you only suffer because your soul is not strong enough to assert its power, its supremacy over the body, and to adapt the body to its surroundings.
Animals and men suffer from the inefficiency, the non-development of the soul; unless, as in the case of Christ Jesus, whose suffering was voluntary undertaken for a special purpose. But even here he was “made perfect through suffering.”
The last vestige of self-will in the place of God’s will disappeared on the Cross of Christ Jesus; and the struggle between the higher and the lower principle in
Jesus, is vividly described in the
picture you have of his agony in the
The suffering which is voluntary is never of the hopeless and despairing nature of the suffering against which the whole being rebels. It is actually impossible for one whose soul is alive to the advantage there is in suffering, to resent it entirely or to feel it so painfully.
Beyond this there are of course many sufferings, among which are the direct results of sins against the body, as of sins against the soul. Such are the sufferings induced by intemperance, by vice, and by many forms of disease produced by unwholesome surroundings.