Dear Rabbi Gellman: I just read your “Honoring the Dead” piece and once again, I was struck by the human suffering and challenges that life presents.

The offering you included was from H, whose father was a prolific reader (his first name was Read) and had lost his eyesight. And yesterday, I made a call to the wife of a man who was dying and had chosen to live his final days at home with the support of a professional end-of-life care group. She mentioned how hard it was to watch her husband suffering.

These were two examples of great “psychological, physical, material” suffering and challenges presented to people that I became aware of the same day. Wow.

In some of your past articles, you have spoken to this. Something like the Material as opposed to the Spiritual being. Very different “aspects,” if you will, of human life. And, if I recall, separating the two can help in dealing with life’s struggles. Can I ask you to consider offering another piece on helping us deal with life’s serious struggles?  — From S in Kenosha, Wisconsin

MG: The main thing I know is that pain and suffering are not the same. Pain is not a choice. Suffering is a choice. If you drop a heavy object on your foot you will — you must — feel pain. It is a natural reaction to an assault on your well-being. Suffering, on the other hand, is a choice we make to let our pain break us. We can choose instead to accept, overcome and manage the pain. The great gift of faith is that it teaches us how to choose not to suffer.

One path is acceptance. My favorite spiritual teaching of acceptance is found in a letter from an anonymous Confederate soldier:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;

I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all, most richly blessed.

This teaching is a major pillar of Eastern religious thought as well. Lao Tzu, the 6th-century Chinese philosopher who founded Taoism wrote:

Be content with what you have

Rejoice in the way things are

When you realize there is nothing lacking

The whole world belongs to you

Another spiritual element is fearlessness. It is the most famous promise in the most famous psalm, Psalm 23, “Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”

The source of courage is the belief that we face the travails of life with a loving God accompanying us on our journey. The religious life does not guarantee us lives free of pain but it does guarantee us lives free of suffering if we will just trust in God’s saving power.

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Nassau transgender restrictions ... Gabby Petito case settled ... SCPD promotions ... Boxing bus driver

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