In recent years, one concern has continually cropped up in my practice.

The concern regards the nature of suffering, and the question that usually arises involves why suffering exists. One recent client asked me, “If God is loving, then why am I constantly faced with pain and suffering?” Others have asked, “If God exists, then why does he let us suffer?” Maybe you’ve even had thoughts along these lines.

Now, this post is not meant to be a discourse on the existence of God. It is, however, intended to offer my thoughts on the subject of pain and suffering.

See, I remember being a child exposed to metaphysics, and it fit well with the instincts of my soul. When I turned 11, my family introduced me to the Edgar Cayce readings through a summer camp for kids based exclusively on his work. We were taught how to live in love and harmony with each other and to learn from and respect nature, as well as the importance of eating a largely plant-based diet. Those two weeks each summer were the most joyful times in my childhood. But when I got home, reality hit like a Steinway falling from a ten-story window.

I fully believed that living without struggle was possible. I had experienced true, uplifting community first hand. But south Florida didn’t match up with that experience. I saw people everywhere in pain. They struggled with traffic, poor health, money troubles, food, and death. Not only that, I saw people hurting each other and fellow inhabitants of Planet Earth. Eventually, the pain I witnessed became my own suffering. I mean, how could the God I knew be behind this?

So I became depressed. Very depressed. My map of reality just didn’t match up with reality itself, and all I had to blame was God. Wasn’t it God’s job to take care of us? Wasn’t He supposed to be benevolent and loving? Then, why on earth didn’t he end the cycle of pain and violence that I experienced every day? If He couldn’t, then I knew we were all screwed.

Personally, I wrestled with this debate for decades of my life, only recently coming to a peace with it. I even kept track of the individuals with which I’ve discussed this, noting their thoughts on the subject. Here are the most popular viewpoints I’ve gathered.

1. God doesn’t exist, so it’s best to just accept pain as part of the human drama.
2. God works in mysterious ways.
3. God will ease our suffering if we follow Jesus.
4. God is good and gives us pain to teach us lessons.
5. God will teach us through joy if we pray enough and are willing to accept grace.
6. God is punishing us for our misdeeds.

You may already know that I currently subscribe to none of these interpretations. After years of meditation and spiritual work with myself and others I have come to a very clear conclusion that has brought me more peace and you can imagine.

7. God has nothing to do with suffering- it is a human condition created by the ego in an attempt to separate ourselves from the natural world.

I understand this may be controversial for many readers, so I’ll explain. When I became a vegetarian at age 15, I received a lot of criticism from the meat-eaters in my life. They purported that animals were put here to feed humans. I didn’t believe them then, and I certainly do not now. What is it in the human psyche that leads us to assume we are better, more than, or above the natural world? Being top of the food chain does not make us “special” in the eyes of our creator. Neither does our cerebral intelligence. Humans are not more evolved than animals. Yes, we have greater intelligence, but that intelligence is as destructive as it is productive, so it can’t be relied upon to garner much favor. Besides, if “God” is benevolent, then wouldn’t all living creatures be loved equally? I believe it is pure arrogance that has caused our own suffering.

Let’s consider a radical new thought. We are all created equal. Each living being is different, and those differences are what make this world work. If we accept this idea, then we can gracefully co-exist with other living beings (including other humans). When we find peace between us, we can experience peace within us. If I can live in harmony with my world, I can experience harmony within myself.

Having a healthy connection and respect for our natural world has other benefits as well. If you sit in the woods for some time, you’ll notice leaves falling from trees and birds breaking branches. Do you think the tree suffers from this? Does it get angry and yell at the gods for taking its limbs? The trees absence of “intelligence” means it doesn’t reflect on why it’s branches have been broken. According to the tree, the broken branch just is.

All of this leads to my conclusion. Thinking about why something happens is the most destructive use of human intelligence. The more we can accept what is, the more peace we can experience. This is not a new concept, but it can change your life when you fully understand what this means.

In my private practice, I hear many complaints along the lines of, “I can’t make money,” “bad things always happen to me,” and “it’s harder for me than it is for others.” And while these are different problems, there is a common theme- why me?

Guess what, if you live on this planet “bad” stuff is likely going to happen to you. No one is immune to pain or suffering. Some people may seem to have more than others, but the reasons why are completely irrelevant to actually ending their suffering. What will make a difference, then?

1. Consider how much worse it could have been, and be grateful you didn’t suffer more.
When my car was stolen on the first day of my vacation, I immediately realized that I could have been in it when the boys decided to use a wrench to break the windows. Instead I was peacefully asleep and unaware of the damage being done. My instant relief that no one was harmed led me to calmly call the police, and my car was returned to me by the end of the day. Sometimes giving thanks for the little things brings big, good things.

2. Stop expecting God to fix things for you. Take responsibility, and do something to help someone else out.
I no longer believe in a God that anyone would recognize. Instead I connect to the creative principle and the energy of what is. And I know that we all co-create our experiences. People that believe in the Law of Attraction sometimes forget that each individual is only half of the equation. We do not exist in isolation. There is a larger context to consider. So, if you take responsibility for your part and do your best to live in the spirit of creating for others what you want for yourself you’ve greatly increased your odds of getting what you want. Quit whining about what is, and do what you can to create something different!

3. Cultivate the courage to accept what is- and then make it different.
Pretend you’re a leaf being blown about by the wind. It is futile to resist the wind, it is stronger than you. Instead, let it carry you until it’s finished. Just enjoy the free ride!

4. Focus on what you want to create, rather than on what you want to destroy.
Instead of thinking constantly about getting out of pain or ending suffering, shift your thoughts to what you want to experience in your life. Thinking about what you want to stop only brings more of it, so accept what you have with gratitude. Then you can turn your mind to all the goodness you wish to receive.

5. Learn from your challenges.
The best way to avoid continued struggle is to gather positive learning from each instance. This involves taking responsibility for the part you played in the drama. Consider what you would have done differently if given a magical do-over. How can you avoid pain in the future, without making gross generalizations about yourself or the world around you.

In closing, I wish you to remember the most important point. Your life is not defined by the number of challenges you face. It is defined by the strength and courage you cultivate to get out of bed each morning and face the world with determination, desire, and faith, knowing that you will prevail no matter what. And in the wise words of Richard Bandler, “Just be happy for no reason.”

Author's Bio: 

Janis Ericson, founder and director of Lightwork Seminars, Intl. and HybridNLP, is Master Hypnotherapist, NLP Trainer, and author. She lives in San Francisco, CA and teaches classes around the world.