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Human Suffering: Avoidable or Not?

Rodney Richards | Feb 26, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Feb 26, 2023

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In this world, everyone suffers. We all experience some pain as we go through life: physical illness, emotional distress, mental health issues, loss and grief, trauma, abuse, discrimination, and social or economic inequality.

Our suffering can come from within, or from external circumstances such as natural disasters, war, and political conflict. Perhaps that’s what the Bible Psalm refers to with the term “vale of tears,” implying that no one escapes the sorrows of this material life.

But while sorrow and suffering seem to be inescapable parts of the human condition, there are ways to alleviate and manage them. These include seeking support from friends, family, and professionals, practicing self-care and self-compassion, or most importantly, finding meaning and purpose in life through spiritual or personal growth practices.

We tend to think of suffering as something to be avoided at all costs, and we, our societies, and our governments, go to great lengths to alleviate it as best we can. Sadly, though, in every era, people of the world suffer in lesser or greater numbers. We live in an age where the “haves” live happily while the dispossessed, poor, hungry, unhealthy, and oppressed die in droves. The world sometimes can seem powerless to stop the suffering.

RELATED: Why We Call the Prophets by Different Names

All the spiritual messengers of God – Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah – outwardly and inwardly suffered. Some gave up comfortable lives, were ostracized, tortured, even put to death for their teachings. Unlike most of us, they weren’t concerned with their physical condition – they were concerned for ours.

The Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected leadership body of the world’s Baha’is, weighed in on this subject in a 1985 letter:

The world is clearly beset by ills and is groaning under the burden of appalling suffering. The trials of the innocent are indeed heartrending and constitute a mystery that the mind of man cannot fathom. Even the Prophets of God Themselves have borne Their share of grievous afflictions in every age. Yet in spite of the evidence of all this suffering, God’s Manifestations, Whose lives and wisdom show Them to have been far above human beings in understanding, unitedly bear testimony to the justice, love and mercy of God.

So how do we relieve human suffering?

The growth and development of service and welfare organizations like international charities and foundations, world bodies such as UNESCO and WHO, and many, many more NGOs and volunteer organizations, all try to ease the pain the world and its people are going through – and we thank them. But each day a new calamity arises, a nation is torn by war, or an earthquake strikes. Human rights abuses increase. We can’t seem to keep up. 

The same letter from the Universal House of Justice offers a cure – the application of the Baha’i teachings to the world’s continuing suffering:

The amelioration of the conditions of the world requires the reconstruction of human society and efforts to improve the material well-being of humanity. The Baha’i approach to this task is evolutionary and multifaceted, involving not only the spiritual transformation of individuals but the establishment of an administrative system based on the application of justice, a system which is at once the “nucleus” and the “pattern” of the future World Order, together with the implementation of programs of social and economic development that derive their impetus from the grass roots of the community.

The world’s Baha’is did not dream up this solution. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith – who Baha’is believe is the latest messenger of God and Divine Physician for our ailing age – revealed this remedy. 

RELATED: Only Human Unity, on a Spiritual Level, Can Assure Our Survival

However – it will take all the peoples of the world, working together, to refine and develop the nucleus and pattern of a reconstructed human society. Not through coercion or dictates, not through oppression, war, or violence, will this new world order come into being. It can only be established through love, understanding, and cooperation. Baha’is only ask that you investigate these remedies for yourself, contained in the remarkable new blueprint given to all posterity by Baha’u’llah, by his son and successor Abdu’l-Baha, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith Shoghi Effendi, and now the Universal House of Justice.

As Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

… today these heavenly Teachings are the remedy for a sick and suffering world, and a healing balm for the sores on the body of mankind. They are the spirit of life, the ark of salvation, the magnet to draw down eternal glory, the dynamic power to motivate the inner self of man.

These transformative writings and more are available online at https://www.bahai.org/library/ 

When you read them, they may transform you, as well.

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