View of suffering in non-catholic religions

Occasionally in conversation with people, I hear them say:

  • “God is going to heal me”
  • “God will make it better”
  • “I know God can heal me”

This is in regards to some type of suffering, especially physical suffering they are experiencing. While I believe of course that God CAN heal anyone of anything, and we can and do pray for healing, I believe it is according to God’s will if a person is physically healed.

In the Catholic faith, some general things I have learned about suffering is: it is sharing in Christ’s suffering, our accepting and offering of suffering can be redemptive, we all have a cross to bear and this can aid in our spiritual growth and relationship with God. I know there is more but that is just off the top of my head.

It seems, though, when I have heard others speak the above phrases, that it is expected God will heal them in the way they are wanting. Or that suffering is not something to be experienced or gained from, but something to get past and over.

So, I was wondering, what is your faith’s approach to suffering?

Thanks for anything you are willing to share.

They have a total different angle on things, various Protestant denominations have different ideas, some might say they are suffering because they have not led a good life, others might feel unjustified that they are suffering, others feel if they ask God He will cure them, but as far as I know they don’t think like Catholics do, well put it like this the Anglicans that I went to school with thought as explained , and I think all Protestants think the same way, none of them unite there suffering with Our Lord’s suffering and that’s where the merit begins, and understanding of how Our Lord suffered for all of us, by joining our suffering with HIS.

As a Catholic I firmly believe in the salvific value of suffering. It doesn’t mean I like it, but have no doubt of it’s value, simply based on my own sufferings.

We all resist it, but if we can reach a point that we can accept a particular suffering and offer it to God we can deal with it better. I know I have gained patience, greater compassion and understanding and deeper insights through my sufferings than I would had they not occurred.

And when people ask for healing they may not realize that what needs healed most of all is their soul, not their bodies. Much of what I have suffered has strengthened my soul, made it easier to forgive others and to accept God’s graces. I don’t think we should ask for healing with a particular outcome in mind. God will heal that which needs the greatest healing and we may not truly know what really ails us.

I believe that Allah created us to worship Him-- and one of the ways a believer does this is through prayer. He hears every prayer done exclusively to Him, but a problem can arise when a person thinks that they ought to have such-and-such (like, for example: “I’ve served Him for so many years! why is this happening to me?”). Yes, I believe miracles happen and prayers can aid a sick/suffering person, but at the same time, there are some things Allah will not heal because that suffering/sickness may serve a greater purpose.

Prophet Moses [peace be upon him] had a speech impediment and he [Moses] brought that up during his conversation with Allah at the burning bush. God assured him, though, that His Love and His Grace would suffice Moses [Qur’an 20:46]. I think that, at that point, Moses [peace be upon him] came to the realization that God loved him just as he was. Even though he had this thing that hindered him from speaking, he went on to find a great reality of God’s Love that very few people [throughout history] have experienced.

I think that that’s worth thinking about as a reason to forbear and to rejoice even in the midst of suffering; that’s the example I use when I minister to a brother or sister of mine (i.e. a muslim). There’s no such thing as purposeless suffering.

Pentecostals are often ones you’ll hear making declarations of faith that God will heal them. While this may seem to others that there is no value being placed on suffering, that’s sort of a misunderstanding. We know we will suffer in this life, and through all suffering we should be like Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15. He’s worthy of our trust.

We also believe strongly in God’s healing power and that “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” James 5:15.

Now, there is a tendency among some to refuse to recognize the reality of any suffering or sickness in their life. By this “positive confession,” they believe they are practicing faith and not “receiving” all the bad stuff that’s happening to them. This is unbiblical in my opinion.

Like Job, we can only wonder about our suffering. God rarely discloses His reasons for His actions (we know that He gave Job into Satan’s hands but Job sure didn’t). We do know that God’s mercy to us was made visible through the suffering and death of Christ so we look to the cross and say with Job:

19 Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and he who testifies for me is on high.
20 My friends scorn me;
my eye pours out tears to God,
21 that he would argue the case of a man with God,
as[a] a son of man does with his neighbor.

(Job 16:19-21) ESV

In the C&MA, we have a long standing belief in divine healing as a distinctive of our theology. Our view of it, however, is somewhat different than the later day faith healing movement (which borrowed a lot from us on this point.)

Basically, the breakdown, at least for our founder and other “old school” Alliance members, is like this:

1 - God absolutely promised us that we will experience complete and total healing in Christ.

2 - Christ’s redemptive work on the cross purchased for us not just spiritual salvation, but physical salvation as well.

3 - When we experience Regeneration, Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes our very life, and, again, not just spiritually but physically as well. Christ is our living, ever present source of life and health in this life and the next.

4 - Christ further promised us that if we have no more faith than a mustard seed, that absolutely nothing can stand in the way of us doing all that He would have us do.

5 - When any of us is troubled or is suffering from any difficulty or ailment, whether spiritual or physical (and by extension, this would include financial and other situational problems), we simply have to ask Him to meet that need and then wait patiently and expectantly for Him.

6 - Our expectation of healing is not restricted to only those things that we ask for, but also those physical and spiritual needs that we are not even aware of. We don’t need to “name” or “claim” anything and we certainly don’t need to “plant a seed” in the form of a financial donation to any minister or church to have that patient expectation.

6 - How and when, exactly, God chooses to meet our need or to do that healing is entirely up to Him and not us. He may choose to heal us miraculously, or He may choose to heal us providentially, through doctors and other ordinary means. He may heal us all at once, or He may give us the strength to persevere through difficulty. We may be healed in this life, or we may have to wait for the Resurrection. The important point is that, when we ask our heavenly Father for anything that is good and right for us to have, the answer will never be “no” even though the answer might be “not yet.”

I have personally experienced two diving healings in my life. Those testimonies may be illustrative:

First, right before I had my first back surgery I went to my local church’s regular Sunday Night Healing Service. The Elders, as is our custom according to our reading of the scriptures, prayed for me, laid hands on me, and anointed me with oil (in a right not too dissimilar to your Anointing of the Sick.) I later had surgery and ended up doing pretty well, all things considered. The Pastor (a Benny Hinn devotee) asked me one day about it and when I told him, he said, “Well… I’m just disappointed that God didn’t choose to heal you.” I just kind of blinked and gave him the RCA dog look for a second and said, “But He did.”

Second, I had suffered with Depression and Anxiety for my entire life. I had been on meds for years and was managing it pretty well. I never sought nor asked for a healing on this issue because, well… frankly… I took it as my personal cross to bear and sought only to offer whatever suffering I may have on this point up to Christ (as I was taught to by my wonderful, very Catholic Great Grandmother.) Then, one day, I woke up from a nap and had a sudden realization that I was healed. I didn’t stop my meds. I kind of brushed it off, frankly, as one of those things that often happens in between sleeping and waking. That was until I started showing the clear signs of being over medicated. I went to my doctor and he just kind of shrugged and adjusted my dosage… and then again… and then again… until I was off the meds entirely. That was over 10 years ago and I’ve never had the shadow of Depression or Anxiety touch me again.

Take that for what you will. Agree or disagree, that was my experience, and I will rest continue to rest all my hopes on Christ, Our Healer until He comes again and makes my healing complete.

I think we suffer because life is not perfect. Humans/nature have the blessing and curse of free will and with that comes suffering.

A human physically abusing another is causing suffering, because he or she is exercising their free will to do so.

A genetic mutation during the repoductive process could result in a debilitating or fatal disease causing much physical and emotional suffering, because even in nature things happen that may fall outside what we would consider nature’s normal genetic blueprint.

I don’t lay my suffering at the feet of God in expectation of healing. What I look to God for in a time of suffering is comfort and guidance.

And I do not say this as the position of the Episcopal Church, because I have never found that members of any religion/church ALL believe/view/interpret/experience things EXACTLY the same way, and particularly one’s personal relationship to God (and in this case, relating to suffering).

Excellent post. I agree. It is our weakness that is sometimes needed to be more aware of God. We are more dependent on Him if we are in need. We by human nature don’t want to suffer, but some of our suffering could be what we need to avoid sin, becoming to full of pride and to keep God in mind at all times.

My belief system says that suffering is a natural consequence of life and can only be healed by earthly mean. Recently, here in Pennsylvania we stood by as an 8 year-old girl died horribly of leukemia. Given the hundreds of thousands praying for this poor child, I’d have to say that there is no evidence of divine healing.

If you think of prayer as a way to make demands on God that certain material facts about the universe change to match your will, indeed prayer does not always work.

But I haven’t met anyone who believes prayer does work in that way.

We must travel in different circles.

Sometimes suffering (like on the deathbed) could be a way to erase some of your sins.

The death of this child does not mean that a healing did not occur. This is a common mistake that people make. There have been miraculous healings throughout history. Not everyone will receive such a healing. This does not mean that God is absent or does not care.

This illness may be the way God called this girl home. and none of us know what kind of other healings may occur in her family or for others because of her sufferings. We don’t know if she offered her sufferings to God, if she came to know God via her sufferings or if her family finally came to know God due to her sufferings. The greatest healing anyone can have is coming to believe in God.

Too often we equate good health or the return to it as a definitive sign that God is with us, and if we are not granted that health we think He does not care. That misses the whole point of Jesus’ life and purpose on this earth. He died for our sins so we could be with God again, not so we could all be healthy and have lives that are trouble free.

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