Suffering is a prominent theme in Christianity and is viewed as inevitable due to sins of humanity. However, Christians take solace in knowing that nobody suffers alone because Christ suffers with them and has sacrificed his life to atone for their sins. Judaism teaches that suffering is a way to come closer to God and encourages the followers to turn to prayers as a means of finding comfort. Both Islam and the Baha’i religions believe God to be just and merciful and see suffering as tests through which God judges people and rewards those who endure suffering with patience and unwavering faith.
Hindu philosophy is rooted in principles of Karma and causality, thus giving suffering some logical perspective. It helps people make peace with it, giving an opportunity to purge the past karmic account to preempt further suffering by being mindful of doing good deeds and seeking God’s forgiveness via prayers and rituals. According to Buddha, suffering is an inherent part of the human life cycle and arises due to our attachments and desires. Buddhism offers an eightfold path to transcend the sufferings and attain spiritual enlightenment to escape the cycle of death and rebirth. Sikhism, Taoism, and Confucianism all see suffering as inevitable and as a means to learn and grow.
All faiths guide their followers to make sense of pain and suffering, provide means to transcend it and help find the hidden factors that transform the caterpillar into the butterfly and the darkness into light. Suffering encourages us to be introspective, forces us to be humble and induces us to turn to a higher power. When we look back and reflect upon the moments of our past sufferings, we often find that those were the very catalysts we needed to become resilient and develop inner spiritual strength to become who we are today.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
—The New Testament (Romans 5:3-5), Christian text
“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.”
—The Dhammapada, Buddhist text
“Faith is the refusal to let go until you have turned suffering into a blessing.”
—Jonathan Sacks, British Rabbi, and author
“If I do an evil action, I must suffer for it; there is no power in this universe to stop or stay it.”
—Swami Vivekananda, Hindu monk
“And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.”
—The Qur’an (2:155), Muslim text
“The benevolent man reaps the benefit only after overcoming difficulties.”
—The Analects (6:22), Confucian text