This is an excerpt from a dialogue (through exchange of emails) written to my atheist friend Sam, when he asked me about suffering
The Question of Suffering
"How could an Intelligent Being allow such cruelty?", Sam asked
A most valid, most important, and most relevant question.
To start with, I am afraid that by talking about this topic, it would be very difficult to be objective. We won’t be able to discuss it from a purely scientific perception.
We can’t -even if we wanted to- be objective; as this issue entails feelings, emotions, philosophy, personal experience. Therefore I find that –here- I can’t be anything other than subjective; reflecting on my own personal life and my personal experiences.
The most negative occurrences in the life of a human being can be summarized as such: physical pain, emotional pain (sorrow), and fear.
Contemplating on my own life and like every one on the planet I’ve experienced all; but with such intensity that some times it felt and feels almost unbearable.
As little girl I survived the horrors of war, I watched my childhood being stolen away from me. I witnessed the destruction of a people. I experienced the loss of every thing I loved; including my home, my garden, my relatives, my friends, my village, my identity, even my much-loved books and school bag.
I had to rely on UN food and cloths parcels in order to survive.
I witnessed fighter planes flying so low in the sky -that as a child you thought they’re about to fall onto your head- while bombing villages killing innocent women and children.
At such a tender age, I came face to face with human cruelty and brutality and witnessed their ability to inflect so much pain, suffering, and humiliation upon its own kind.
I left home as a refugee with absolutely nothing except the two dresses and a jumper that my mum had forced me to put on in the burning heat of Middle Eastern summer.
She could carry nothing as her youngest baby was only three months old; she had to look after him and his four other sisters; the eldest was only seven years old. For six days we were hiding in a tomb in one of the graveyards in a neighbouring village.
I lived through a kind of fear that had left its permanent mark on me. Until this very day I still jump when I hear a loud noise; I still tremble when I hear the roar of an airplane.
My family of seven and I had lived for some years of our life sharing one room, living with another family of twelve (in Jordan ), then sharing with a different family of ten (in Libya ).
At a very young age, I’ve experienced pain, fear, and sorrow that many people don’t experience in a lifetime.
I agonized as my roots were uprooted time and time again; so much so that at the age of seventeen I decided to live an isolated life refusing to talk to anyone, by doing so I was trying to protect my sanity.
My experiences at the time had taught me that I should never allow my self to make friends or love any one; as every one I loved I ended up loosing or getting separated away from.
As a young mother I was severely ill that I thought I was dying, I asked the doctors to allow me to leave the hospital for few hours because I wanted to see "Beauty and the Beast" movie with my children before it was too late; as I didn’t think I’d make it to watch anything else with them let alone watch them grow.
The pain that I went through at the time was so horrendous that it would keep me awake all day and night; they had to use powerful sedatives to put asleep.
I prayed that no one ever may go through what I’ve been going through.
For four years I was bed ridden, fighting what seemed to be an endless battle with ruthless pain; at some point I couldn’t even hold a cup of tea in my hand let alone making one.
I couldn’t even drive; Khaled used to put me in the car and try to take me out by driving around for a little while just to lift my spirit up. At the end of each trip I’d come home shattered and so exhausted that I would decide I would never leave the house again.
I would read a paragraph over and over and over again without being able to understand a thing. People would be surrounding me chatting trying to cheer me up, yet I wasn’t even able to comprehend what they were saying.
I sat in front of the consultant with tears flooding into my eyes as he told me that this is it for me. Announcing a life-sentence of pain and agony, and advising me that I should stop hoping to become better or be cured; rather I should be looking for ways of coping with my new life-imprisonment.
I stared at him while he was confirming the end of my life -as I knew it- in horror and disbelief, refusing to believe anything he said as my thoughts echoed "who do you think you are? You are not God to be telling me this nonsense"
The last episode of my extraordinary -yet very ordinary- life was the loss of my dearest, my greatest, my one and only love.
That episode you and other friends have been eyewitnesses to.
From this summarized narrative of my life you could vividly see that I’ve almost hit rock-bottom of every negative experience that any human can go through:
Loss of physical health and living with excruciating pain
Loss of all material positions even my very own identity
Loss of mental and intellectual capacities
Loss of the love of my life
By going into so much detail about my life I was eager to emphasize the reality that through my experiences I have a reasonable idea about pain and what it means to suffer.
Now then, through all what I’ve been through; One Thing and one thing only kept me going, helped me, held me, and carried me through; and that is my Faith.
I could never reconcile my agonized painful existence with futility and lack of purpose.
My logic and my feelings lead me to conclude that if everything came from nothing, if there was no purpose in the existence of the universe, if there is no purpose in the existence of life; then, it’s more reasonable to think that there is no purpose in a life full of agony such as mine, there is no point in living on to suffer more. I.e. there is no purpose in life. period.
The only thing that could ever console and comfort this troubled soul of mine was this faith, this insight and intuition that this can’t all be in vain.
And like a tender mother’s hand stroking her child
Like a soft warm blanket in a cold winter night
Like gentle rain drops drizzling over a parched piece of land
Like a rainbow flowing piercing through thick dark clouds
I feel God’s loving hand
Then this sweet… sweet comfort that overwhelms you, embraces you as you humbly say:
Here I am God… exhausted… come to my aid
Here I am God… in much anguish… relieve me… ease my pain
Here I am God… full of sorrow… soothe my hurt
Here I am God… lonely… be my friend and companion.
Here I am God… tiered… help me…hold me… heal me
Here I am God… lost… guide me… show me the way
That distressed soul… that troubled heart would be magically transformed…
Calm would descend… tranquillity and serenity would prevail… joy would overwhelm… and sweet… sweet comfort would embrace you.
You feel helped… held… healed… and carried through.
Even if the pain is still there!
There are no words in any human dictionary or vocabulary that could come near into describing that feeling, all we can do is give analogies.
Never the real feelings
Then with time; and in retrospect the wisdom of what you’ve been through will become more apparent.
Like pieces of a jigsaw your life would start making sense; some of the pieces might be very murky and horrible, others might be bright and colourful, each piece alone does not make any sense; yet as they assemble together a beautiful pattern emerges, an amazing picture materializes.
Such was my life.
Such is life