What Gives Suffering Meaning?

You are walking down a street, minding your own business, when you are accosted and forced to carry a huge and heavy basket on your back. You're ordered to walk three blocks, turn left, go two blocks, turn right, then proceed straight on. Staggering under the weight, you stumble on, bewildered and angry. The weight of the basket is crushing. Your back is breaking. The whole thing is meaningless and haphazard. You resent how the heavy burden conusmes you, becoming the focal point of your entire existence. When you are halfway around the third block, reeling under the burden, you finally bellow, "What gives?"

The truth is then revealed. The burden you are carrying is your child, injured and unconscious. "What?" On top of that, you are not trudging through a meaningless rat maze but the most direct route to a hospital emergency room.

Immediately you straighten up. You inhale new vigor. Your knees quit buckling. Adrenaline and fresh energy quicken your pace, and you move forward with a new attitude.

Why the change? The suffering you're going through involves a relationship. Not just any relationship, but one with your child. It is the love you have for your child that quickens your steps and buoys up your heart. Your relationship gives your burden meaning.

Suffering has no meaning in itself. Left to its own, it is a frustrating and bewildering burden. But given the context of a relationship, suffering suddenly has meaning.

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