The most well recognised icon of the Christian tradition is also an icon of intense suffering. But Christians do not major on that aspect of the cross. They major on what the death of Jesus on a cross bought them. The suffering represented by the icon is largely overlooked and often not a popular topic.
Could it be that suffering as a tool for transformation has been largely ignored as a subject in the Christian tradition? It is as if the Christian tradition tends to major on the positive, the victorious, the "afterlife" and downplay suffering as a very real aspect of living this life. I think it has some connection with the doctrine of "life after death". Christians tend to live for the life after this life, for the "Second Coming"of Christ and tend to major on ways to escape the suffering of this world and to obtain fire insurance for the life after this one. Suffering is not a tool but a burden and God is a giant cosmic servant employed to reduce pain and suffering.
The effect this has on the way Christians live is obvious. We tend to minimise this life and this earth and everyone who is not a Christian to a means that will be justified by the end.
Buddhism, that does not have that perspective, major on suffering and how the correct approach to suffering can transform the way we live this life. For them, suffering is a tool, for Christians, suffering is something that must be avoided at all cost and that should actually not be part of our life-experience. Something we are entitled to escape based on our relationship with a loving Father.
Christians employ various instruments like prayer, service to God, evangelism and sacrifice to obtain favour with God and through that escape suffering. Buddhists do not have an external being to appeal to, so they have to transform suffering itself into a tool to reach perfection.
In the light of those thoughts, the questions below that I have received from Tracey can become guiding lights in a healthy discussion. Let's see what we can do with them
1. Do you think all human suffering leads us to the same outcome?
2. Does suffering ultimately cause growth and is growth suffering. I see suffering as such a negative process if I don’t see it in the light of growth.
3. If everything is in love, through love, can suffering be a form of love?
4. Does suffering depend on my mindset, is it connected to my ego and or my attachment to an expected outcome?