On Suffering and Faith

by Samuel Emmanuel Tan

My name is Samuel and I am 26 years old this year. I belong to the newest OYP young working adults’ community called Lighthouse. By the end of May, I will have been part of the working world for slightly more than a year.

I am a social worker in a healthcare setting. As part of my work, I get to interact and cross paths with people from all walks of life. The main demographic that I encounter are usually those from lower-income homes or those who have limited family and social support. The stories I hear daily sometimes make me wonder where God is in all this suffering. I often feel dejected and my heart aches for the people I meet.

The stories that I hear make me wonder about who is to blame. People for making bad decisions? God for not being present in the lives of His people? At times, the broken lives and broken families that come through my doors open my eyes to the worst of humanity. This makes it difficult for me to love people as Jesus loves them. There were many times where I started to question myself, wondering if I am truly capable of love. This caused me much self-doubt and I felt unworthy of being a missionary in my workplace. I felt drained.

Over time, this led to me to go through the motions, getting through each day just to survive. These feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness slowly built up within me, causing me to feel angry at every situation. It made me feel as though I started to hate everything I used to love about my work. Despite sharing about this with friends, community and my supervisors, I couldn’t seem to shake off these feelings. I started to realise that I was back to relying on my own strength in this situation. Jesus was never in the picture, because I felt discouraged by the fact that He did not seem present in all the suffering that I encountered every day.

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In prayer and reflection, I asked God about where is He in all this. The image of the cross came to mind and reminded me of what true love is in this world. The act of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, for the sake of humanity, because He simply loves us that much. Indeed, love requires sacrifice, and sacrifice can mean suffering at times. I felt edified by this image, helping me to see that even in the suffering, Jesus is indeed present. I chose to look to myself, rather than keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Indeed, just as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in 1 Cor 1:27 “But God has chosen the foolish of the world, so that he may confound the wise. And God has chosen the weak of the world, so that he may confound the strong”. This affirms my sense of purpose. God is the one who has placed me in the field of social work to reach out to those who have yet to believe in Him.

Through the power of the cross, I can believe once again in the victory in which Jesus has won for me. I can love because He loves me first. Indeed, Jesus is my first love. I have learned from this experience, that instead of focusing on the difficulty of loving others, I should be working on loving Jesus more. As my relationship with God grows deeper, the rest will fall into place, and to love others even in the suffering becomes a possible feat.

This once again, brings me out of my own darkness, the darkness of always wanting to be in control and to rely on my own strength. This experience is another God-filled reminder that I need to turn to Jesus and to keep my eyes on Him. When I allow Jesus to love me, so then can I love too.


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