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Among the most difficult questions for religions to resolve is “the problem of evil.” We have a deep yearning for fairness and justice and an equally deep aversion to pain and suffering. Oftentimes, prophets or even gods are said to have endured great amounts of suffering, just like us. But they assure us that suffering can be mitigated or even abolished altogether. In the meantime, they advise us to enlarge our sense of perspective to see that what appears to be evil or suffering may eventually prove to be a blessing in disguise. We may suffer very deeply in the present, but we often look back and see that those moments of suffering were the very catalysts we needed in order to grow and learn and develop into who we are today.

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Quotations

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised tothose who love him."

The New Testament
Christian scripture
Christianity

"And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

"Every soul is certain to taste death: We test you all through the bad and the good, and to Us you will all return."

The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture
Judaism

“ 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.' In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."

Sefer Ha-Aggadah
Collection of Jewish writings
Judaism

"A man is required to bless God for evil, even as he is to bless Him for good[...]no matter what judgment He decrees for you, whether a measure of prosperity or a measure of suffering."

‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

"If we suffer it is the outcome of material things, and all the trials and troubles come from this world of illusion."

Shoghi Effendi
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

“As we suffer these misfortunes we must remember that the Prophets of God Themselves were not immune from these things which men suffer. They knew sorrow, illness and pain too. They rose above these things through Their spirits, and that is what we must try and do too, when afflicted."

Shoghi Effendi
Baha'i leader
Baha'i

"Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow Bahá’ís and your children."

The Puranas
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

 “There are many sufferings in birth, and many that come right after birth; and there are many that he encounters in childhood, inflicted by elemental factors and so forth. Covered over by the darkness of ignorance, a man’s heart becomes stupefied."

The Puranas
Hindu scripture
Hinduism

“Now the Lord resolved to demonstrate that Maran was capable of pursuing such a course not only while his prosperity lasted, but also if he were to fall on hard times. Accordingly he planned that Maran’s wealth should gradually diminish until it had all evaporated and he had been reduced to poverty. However, although his circumstances were thus straitened, the generosity of the lord of Ilaiyankuti was not straitened in the slightest. On the contrary, he sold his possessions and took out crippling loans, which enabled him to persevere in his sacred service as before."

The Dhammapada
Buddhist scripture
Buddhism

“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."

Thich Nhat Hanh
Buddhist monk and author
Buddhism

"The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don' t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don't overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life--the beautiful sunset, the smile of a child, the many flowers and trees. To suffer is not enough. Please don't be imprisoned by your suffering."

Confucius
Founder of Confucianism
Confucianism

"The benevolent man reaps the benefit only after overcoming difficulties."

Aldous Huxley
British-American writer
Art & Literature

“Two thirds of all sorrow is homemade and, so far as the universe is concerned, unnecessary."

Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D.
Director of the Harvard Human Flourishing Program
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

"Suffering is not necessarily the opposite of flourishing. Suffering entails the experience of the loss of something good. It is painful. A holistic approach to flourishing requires a way to deal with and to confront the suffering that we will inevitably experience [...] In the midst of suffering, we can still find ways to respond that promote at least some aspects of flourishing. We can respond to suffering by trying to understand the situation and by acknowledging the loss; by turning to others in our communities for support and comfort; by re-evaluating our values, desires, and purposes; by trying to find new meaning and opportunities for growth amidst suffering; by eventually trying to adjust to the circumstances, regain the good that was lost, or find new ways forward."

Tyler J. VanderWeele, Ph.D.
Director of the Harvard Human Flourishing Program
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

"Our confrontation with suffering, and even death, provides an important opportunity for reflection. What is it that we value most? What relationships might be in need of forgiveness or reconciliation? How is it that we are to understand our lives and our own mortality? These are not easy questions. For these, we must turn away from the data. We must turn towards our interior life, to those around us who are wise, to our rich theological and philosophical traditions, to try, as best as possible, to discern what it is that matters most."

Bhikkhu Analayo
Buddhist scholar and author
Buddhism

"Dukkha is often translated as 'suffering.' Suffering, however, represents only one aspect of dukkha, a term whose range of implications is difficult to capture with a single English word. Dukkha can be derived from the Sanskrit kha, one meaning of which is 'the axle-hole of a wheel,' and the antithetic prefix duh (=dus), which stands for 'difficulty' or 'badness.' The complete term then evokes the image of an axle not fitting properly into its hole. According to this image, dukkha suggests "disharmony" or 'friction.' Alternatively dukkha can be related to the Sanskrit stha, 'standing' or 'abiding,' combined with the same antithetic prefix duh. Dukkha in the sense of 'standing badly' then conveys nuances of 'uneasiness' or of being 'uncomfortable.' In order to catch the various nuances of 'dukkha,' the most convenient translation is 'unsatisfactoriness,' though it might be best to leave the term untranslated."

Maimonides
Medieval Jewish scholar
Judaism

"We suffer from the evils which we, by our own free will, inflict on ourselves and ascribe them to God, who is far from being connected with them!"

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage
Daoism

“If you can’t handle your feelings, how can you avoid harming your spirit? If you can’t control your emotions, but nevertheless try to stop yourself following them, you will harm yourself twice over.”

Dr. Francie Hart Broghammer
psychiatrist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Faith does not promise a life free from suffering. Instead, it offers purpose in and guidance through suffering. Religious faith can instill a sense of meaning and purpose that transcends the present struggle; it allows people to survive anguish and find meaning in suffering.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

"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." (2:155)

Swami Vivekananda
Hindu monk
Hinduism

"If I do an evil action, I must suffer for it; there is no power in this universe to stop or stay it."

Pema Chödrön
Buddhist nun
Buddhism

"An analogy for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. Sometimes this broken heart gives birth to anxiety and panic; sometimes to anger, resentment and blame. But under the hardness of that armor there is the tenderness of genuine sadness. This is our link with all those who have ever loved. This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion. It can humble us when we’re arrogant and soften us when we are unkind. It awakens us when we prefer to sleep and pierces through our indifference. This continual ache of the heart is a blessing that when accepted fully can be shared with all."

Ming-Dao Deng
Chinese author and philosopher
Daoism

“Those who don’t know how to suffer are the worst off. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to bear out troubles until a better day.”

Ming-Dao Deng
Chinese author and philosopher
Daoism

“Grappling with fate is like meeting an expert wrestler: to escape, you have to accept the fall when you are thrown. The only thing that counts is whether you get back up.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture
Islam

"Do the people think that they will be left to say, 'We believe' and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars." (29:2-3)

Jonathan Sacks
British Orthodox Rabbi and author
Judaism

“Faith is the refusal to let go until you have turned suffering into a blessing.”

Jonathan Sacks
British Orthodox Rabbi and author
Judaism

“To be a Jew is to know that one cannot be indifferent when one’s people are suffering."

Harold Kushner
Rabbi and author
Judaism

"If God is a God of justice and not of power, then God can still be on our side when bad things happen to us. God can know that we are good and honest people who deserve better. Our misfortunes are none of God's doing, and so we can turn to God for help. We will turn to God, not to be judged or forgiven, not to be rewarded or punished, but to be strengthened and comforted."

The Analects
Confucian Text
Confucianism

“The noble man remains stable when in dire straits. The inferior man falls apart."

The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture
Judaism

"Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." (Proverbs 3: 12)