Suffering – Age-Old Problem and Present Reality

Suffering is a very old phenomenon incontrovertibly affects everyone. Ever since Eden’s gates closed upon the heels of our former ancestors, Adam and Eve, man has been a sufferer. Fergusson aptly noted that “the reality of suffering, especially that of the helpless or innocent, is a problem for anyone who posits the existence of an omnipotent and benevolent Deity” (Fergusson 1988, 667). In other words, “there is suffering, evil, pain, grief, death and depression in the world. It touches everyone’s life at some point” (Simundson 1980, 13). My paternal grandmother has suffered tremendously, burying four of her seven children in the order in which they were born at the time when they were breadwinners in the family. Child A, B, C and D (names withheld) respectively died at the ages of 27, 25, 30 and 42 years in 1968, 1972, 1980 and 1997.


The twentieth century has witnessed a volume of human misery and suffering of unprecedented proportions. In the face of this enormity, “philosophers and theologians have continued to grapple with the enigma of evil and suffering” (Atkinson and Field 1995, 824).

It seems understandable when the guilty suffer but it is a mystery when the righteous is not also immune. Paradoxically, “Abraham is tested, Joseph is afflicted, Moses is plagued, David is persecuted, Job is harassed, Elijah is hated, Jeremiah is driven from home, Daniel is thrown to the lions, Stephen is stoned, Paul is imprisoned” (Berner 1973, 75-76). This frankness about suffering does not only belong to the occasional works of the collection of writings that we call the Bible. It is to be found not only in Job, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, Lamentations and many of the Psalms but rather informs the whole story. Realistically, “what is from one vantage point the history of Israel’s providential deliverance from evil, oppression and extinction is, from another, the story of Israel’s continuous degradation of suffering” (Hall 1986, 32).

An incontrovertible truth is that “suffering is real, and is the lot of humanity as we know it” (Hall 1986, 75). In January 2002, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah declared an end to the decade-long civil war that had crippled Sierra Leone. The war, fuelled by a power struggle primarily between the government and rebel forces led by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) over territory, conflict diamonds and politics, brought a decade of attacks on civilians, which resulted in the dislocation of over four million people who were forced either to flee to neighbouring countries or become internally displaced. The sufferings of Sierra Leoneans during the eleven-year rebel war (1991-2002) were unimaginable. In addition to hunger and starvation, arms and limbs were amputated, and babies were stripped off the back of mothers and thrown into burning houses.

The researcher has a friend (a committed Christian) who was raped by seven rebels. As Sierra Leone emerges from the trauma of civil war, its people are now faced with the challenges left by a decade of human rights abuses and the conflicts which plagued the region. During the past decade, Sierra Leone witnessed several egregious violations of human rights, stemming from the war. Among them were child abuse, violence against women, and arbitrary arrest, detention and execution, to name a few. The conflict in neigbouring Liberia used to affect the Sierra Leonean people. As Sierra Leone struggles to recover from this decade of tragedy, one way the citizens are suffering is the lingering effects of the past.

The sad reality is that wars, famines, diseases, natural disasters and ultimate death are never easy to rationalize. Cancer, kidney failure, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, cerebral palsy, divorce, rape, loneliness, rejection, failure, barrenness, widowhood and countless other forms of human suffering produce inevitable questions that are on the lips of both sinner and saint.

Some of these include the following:

1. If God made a perfect world, why is the righteous suffering?

2. Does God want his people to suffer?

3. If not, why did He allow it?

4. If God is omnipotent, why can’t He stop suffering?

5. If God can stop it but does not, is He malevolent?

6. How can a loving God stand by inactive?

The above questions, always present in the minds of people in general and the researcher in particular, challenged the latter to direct one to look for appropriate answers in the Bible.
One can safely assert that “we live in an epicurean age where nobody wants to suffer” (Airiohuodion 1996, 54). Consequently, “we often regard suffering as if it’s to be avoided at all costs, yet it’s often the best display of a life transformed by Christ” (MacArthur 1991,12).

There is another dimension to suffering. In Paul’s day, when a man became a Christian, he knew what he was getting into. To choose Christ meant to choose trouble. It’s still that way although many Christians today don’t seem to realize it. From about A.D. 100 with Emperor Nero until A.D. 12, “the church experienced ten periods of intense persecution at the hands of Roman emperors” (Horton 1993, 11). These included Nero (A.D. 54-58), Domitian (A.D. 81-96), Trajan (A.D.98-117), Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180), Septimus Severus ((A.D. 193-211), Maximimunus (A.D. 235-238), Decius (A.D. 249-251), Valerian (A.D. 253-260), Aurelian (A.D. 270-275) and Diocletian (A.D. 284-305). Eusebius account could be realistically applied to nature of the suffering of the saints:

We ourselves also beheld, when we were at these places, many all at once in a single day, some of whom suffered decapitation, others the punishment of fire; so that the murderous axe was dulled and, worn out, was broken in pieces, while the executioners themselves grew utterly weary and took it in turns to succeed one another (Frend 1984, 481).

The attitude of the early martyrs is worth mentioning. Persuaded that neither death, nor life would separate them from the love of God, these Christians obeyed the Word of God ‘in spite of’ and not ‘because of’. Counting every opportunity to suffer as joyful, they were confident that God meant it for their good. Since they did not want Jesus to be ashamed of them in the last day, they were not afraid of man who can only kill the body. They were told that their lives would be spared if they would just reject the name of Christ. However, they were prepared to die one by one since they could not renounce His name. At the very hour of death, these martyrs pledged allegiance to the lamb seeking to honour Him instead. This amazed Eusebius who completed his narrative with this inspiring tribute :

Thus, as soon as sentence was given against the fire, some from one quarter and others from another would leap up to the tribunal before the judge to confess themselves Christians; paying no heed when faced with terrors…but undismayedly and boldly speaking of the piety towards the God of the universe, and with joy… receiving the final sentence of death; so that they sang and sent up hymns and thanksgiving to the God of the universe even to the very last breath (Frend 1984, 481).

Christianity however became a tolerated religion in the time of Constantine. Indeed, “to Constantine, the best course was not to suppress Christianity” (Noll 1997, 51) but “restoring to the Christians the liberties they had possessed before the persecution” (Frend 1984, 475). This religious toleration produced several changes. Constantine ordered that Sunday was to be a public holiday similar to other pagan holidays. This made possible wider development in worship and larger congregations in the churches. Realistically, greater leisure meant that Christian festivals tended to multiply. This underscores the point that Christians generally do not want to suffer.

Queen Elizabeth I could be compared to Constantine since she also did not follow the footsteps of Queen Mary (alias bloody Mary). Although “the dreadful fires continued for a while longer in Spain and the countries within her grasp, with the ending of the reign of Queen Mary, the history of English martyrdom was brought to a close” (Foxe 1989, 200).


The researcher suspects that the relatively peaceful atmosphere in which Christians worship today could be a contributing factor to the fact that they are not willing to suffer. Everyone seems to claim the sweet side of Christianity. The word ‘sweet’ added to ‘fellowship’ in the grace we normally and meaninglessly recite therefore shows how the contemporary Church views suffering. The theology in the church today is to that of prosperity. However, “… between ‘thus says the Lord’ and ‘it came to pass,’ there are several bridges to cross and several mountains to climb” (Madugba 2002, 50).

In the introduction of his book titled Long life : your heritage, the writer observed that “this book sets out to show one thing: that long life is the heritage of the born again. It sets out to teach that the believer has a choice in the matter of his departure from his earthly tabernacle. The believer can claim victory over death. It is one of his covenant rights. Even though it would be a bit farfetched to disagree with the above, the researcher suspects that the suffering-free or problem-free life can only be lived in heaven. Besides, “to claim that God wills our prosperity at all times may not always be true” (Airiohuodion 1996, 60).

The theology of suffering in the contemporary church is also reflected in song. Before the 1980s, choruses emphasized personal confession of faith in Christ and willingness to take up the cross to follow Him. The fact that people don’t want to suffer today is clearly reflected in the songs, slogans and posters advertising for breakthrough. A popular chorus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria (three West African nations geographically apart) is “Mi a nor go sufa, a nor go beg for bread; God of mirakul, na my Papa o”. The English translation is “I will neither suffer nor beg for bread; my Father is the God of miracle”. This tendency to avoid suffering at all cost has led to the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which stresses faith in claiming blessings as they name them. At the risk of oversimplification and distortion, this gospel teaches, among other things that:

1. Every Christian is created to be materially and financially buoyant.

2. Christians who are in a state of prolonged financial predicament are ignorant of God’s design.

3. For the manifestation of the reversal of breakthrough, the aspirant must demonstrate his expectancy by blessing the ‘man of God’ first (Awoniyi 2004, 2).

Christians are therefore encouraged not to accept suffering as their portion. Anyone who is suffering is either living in sin or is not standing on the promises of God for his showers of blessing. Hall realistically observes that “there is in fact a general distaste in both society and church for interpretations of human suffering which make use of the idea of sin in a causative sense” (Hall 1986, 75).


The above misconception of the concept of suffering in the contemporary church seems to be contrary to II Corinthians 1:3-7.

Paul gives the praise to the Father for His faithful provision of comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-5). This God is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who so loved the world that He sent His Son to save rather than judge the world. He is the God who, among other things, anointed our Lord Jesus Christ to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and comfort all that mourn. He is also the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. Mercy originates from Him and can only be secured from Him. The words ‘all comfort’ indicates that there are neither limitations nor deductions. God’s mercy results in the comfort He shows.

He comforts us in all tribulation and intends for believers who receive the comfort to extend that comfort to others. ‘All’ indicates every single one – not one Ieft out. Although Paul was referring to a specific set of Christians, by implication or extension, all readers of the epistle are included. It is perhaps easy to mention many beautiful things about God being the God of all comfort; however, unless one knows what it is to be truly comforted, it will be difficult to comfort others. God, the comforter, is not far off in a distant heaven where Christians cannot find Him. It is realistic to state that Rick Warren’s ‘painful experiences’ could be one way God prepared him for ministry. A pastor, John Regier, who conducted a seminar in pastoral counseling at West Africa Theological Seminary, Lagos, Nigeria in August 2004 testified that he is now in a better position to comfort someone who is depressed because he went through depression for twenty years and has received the comfort of God. God does not waste pain. He therefore comforts Christians for a purpose. Having received the comfort of God, they are expected to be conduits of that received from God, not storehouses. Paul in verses three and four illustrates that the ability to praise God in the midst of suffering therefore could only come from an experience of the strengthening comfort of God.

Interestingly, comfort is increased when sufferings are increased. The fifth verse provides the reason why suffering equips the Christian to receive God’s comfort. Whenever Christ’s sufferings were increased in Paul’s life, there was a corresponding increase in God’s comfort through the ministry of Christ. This means that the greater the suffering, the greater the comfort and one’s ability to this divine sympathy with others who are suffering. Perhaps it is a strange conjunction to juxtapose suffering and comfort. Presumably this is more strange when they are put together in the relation of cause and effect, and the latter emerges from the former as springs have been loosened by the earthquake at Messina, as volcanic influences are productive of conditions that feed the most luxurious vines. Realistically, the teaching that links suffering and comfort, the volcano and the vine, affliction and emancipation is preeminently significant of the Christian religion. One can only obtain the wine of life through the crushing of the grapes. Affliction introduces one to the juices and manna.

Christ is the leader and sublime Example of suffering. Christians are not expected to always have very easy lives since Jesus Himself knew titanic suffering. It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows by the cultivation of an insignificant life. However, when one wants to fulfill Christ’s purpose, sufferings will then be increased.

The central idea in verses six and seven (part of which is in the fourth verse) deals with suffering and the Christian community. Paul, after experiencing an overflow of Christ’s suffering, knows the strengthening of His comfort. Experiencing suffering itself is the basis for assisting others. Suffering is therefore not necessarily an accident. God designs the affliction of spiritual leaders to minister to the affliction of the flock. The welfare of the Corinthians would be promoted by the example of the apostles in their own trials and the resulting consolations they would be able to pass on as a consequence of their afflictions. Christians shall therefore rejoice together if they suffer together.

A clear understanding of the Pauline concept of suffering as contained in the passage examined, (II Corinthians I:3-7) and an examination of the contemporary trend reveals that Paul’s idea is unpopular. This unpopularity is seen in the various interpretations given to suffering by Christians today.


Although the church has responded to the suffering of the people in Sierra Leone, there is more to be done. Programmes on forgiveness and reconciliation should be on-going rather than one-sided. With the message of Paul at the background, Christians who suffered in different ways must be instrumental in assisting those who are suffering since they have been comforted to comfort. The sacrificial duty of the church, its suffering, should become a work of love and redemption. Even before comforting those who are suffering, the inescapable nature of suffering must be realized. Bhikshu is quoted of saying that.

To be born is to suffer; to grow old is to suffer; to die is to suffer; to loose what is loved is to suffer; to be tied to what is not loved is to suffer; to endure what is distasteful is to suffer. In short, all the results of individuality, of separate self-hood, necessarily involve pain or suffering (Bradley 1969, 699).

Consequently, the church must be thankful to God like Paul in the passage studied, praising God in spite of and not necessarily because of since suffering is inevitable. If the Church lives and moves and have its being in Jesus, then it must be ready to suffer.

The issue of shared comfort is very crucial to the church’s understanding of Paul’s thought and motivation not only in the passage reviewed but the entire letter of II Corinthians. Jesus ought to be the medium of comfort and suffering as Paul suggests in II Corinthians 1:5. As Christians identify with Christ, they must be prepared to suffer with Him.

Although the church should not go about ‘witch-hunting’ or searching for suffering, it must be regarded as part of the divine appointment when it comes. This is important even in James 1:2-4 where ‘trials’ and ‘testing’ are used. Fellowship should be seen as a vital relationship between Christians. They will rejoice together since they also suffer together. Paul made the Corinthians understand this mutuality of suffering and comfort.

Dating In America – Past and Present

In today’s world dating is a common word among people who love to post their profile and upload their photographs on social networking sites, friendship sites and/or dating sites. But even before the evolution of the Internet, people were familiar with dating in a more traditional way. Dating has evolved from supervised dating to one night stands. A brief history on dating in America will help us to know more about the differences of dating between past and the present times.

Until the early 1800s, marriages were considered more seriously than dating; marriages were based on social standings and not based on couple’s attraction or “love at first sight”. The late 1800s saw a transition in dating as it became more formal. Approval from parents was needed. At this time dating was synonymous with romantic relationship or courtship.

In the early 1900s dating between couples were supervised by their parents. Guardians observed the interaction and discussion between couples. The girl’s mother invited the boy to her house and chaperoned the meeting. This period witnessed a trend in public dating.

The mid 1900s saw a great change in the style and values of dating, People came to know about each other through dating and were more influenced by their peers and they determined the rules of dating. People were more influenced by movies and advertisements. There was no “supervision” and interactions between couples were without any commitment. Dating became synonymous with dancing as dancing on the first date was considered for a more serious relationship.

Dating became common among high school students during the 50s and the 60s as there were more weekly dating, exchange of phone calls and physical intimacy which led to early marriages among couples. Prior importance was given to love and this was considered as a main reason for a happier marriages.

Presently dating has become more synonymous with infidelity as married couples are having affairs with either their colleagues or “old school friends”. Thanks to the online revolution and transition in thinking!

How to Create and Deliver a Winning Business Plan Presentation That Will Get You Money

If you’re finishing up your business plan and starting to think about presenting it to potential investors and lenders, you MUST spend quality time and energy preparing your presentation. The business plan represents you and your company; it doesn’t have to be in a gold embossed leather binder with four color photographs but it does have to look professional. So after you have written the final edit of your plan, ask yourself these questions:

Does the it include a title page with your company name, a person’s name and the address and phone numbers? Don’t just clip a business card to the front page, it could get separated.

Has your plan been proofed and spell checked? And by a real person, not just your word processor?

Did you check all abbreviations or acronyms to make sure the first time they’re used they’re explained, ie., World Wide Web (www)?

Have you gone through the plan to make sure all technical terms are explained?

Are the pages numbered?

Do the page numbers for the index match the actual page numbers?

Have you edited the plan to see what you can include in the Appendix rather than in the body of the business plan?

Has someone unfamiliar with your company read the business plan and understood it?

Is your executive summary limited to no more than 3 pages?

Have you had someone unfamiliar with your company read just the executive summary and understand your company?

Are your margins at least one inch wide on each side, top and bottom?

Is your font size at least 11, preferably 12?

If you are using a word processing system which allows color graphics, have you changed the color graphics to grayscale for printing? Or will you be printing the business plan in color?

Have you checked to make sure you didn’t use too many fonts and font sizes?

Have you taken advantage of bullet points, shading, indents, and borders to add visual interest to your business plan? (Just don’t go overboard.)

Do you make judicious use of graphs, charts and graphics to make your points? If not, consider making the extra time to add these in – if you need help, get a staff person to research or create the graphics you will need. And make them color, if possible, for better effect.

Is the use of your page titles and headings consistent in format throughout the business plan?

You can print your business plan on both sides of the paper, just make sure it’s printed on quality paper so that the printing doesn’t bleed through to the other side.

If you are using duplicating or copying services to print your business plans, is the quality nearly perfect?

The main thing to consider it: When my prospective funder picks up this booklet, will they be drawn in? Will it be pleasing to the eye and engaging of the mind? Follow these tips and your business plan will indeed have these effects and more for your intended target – possible investors, partners or buyers.

Systemize Your Sales Presentation For a More Successful Outcome

Regardless of the industry you are in or what your job title is it is likely you are in sales. My belief is that we are all in sales, selling a product, service or idea. The success of your business and life is directly proportional to your ability to sell and market.

Contrary to what some people may think, sales is NOT manipulation. It is strategic influence. To move your customer closer to what they want or need you would be well served to follow a sequence to systemize your sales presentation.

I have been using a systemized sales presentation for years with a great deal of success. This did not happen by chance. I invested in courses, have had mentors, read books, went to seminars and hired consultants to teach me how to be as effective as possible. The result? I have one of the most successful businesses in my industry.

I do not tell you this to try to impress you. Rather, I share this with you because I see many people who have incredible potential who are not living up to their potential. They seem to settle for “getting by.”

The fact is, with proper training and a willingness to grow you can be incredibly successful in sales no matter what industry you are in.

In sales, there are four primary areas to address:





Before someone will make a decision to purchase your product or service, you absolutely must get their attention. From there, you need to peak their interest.

Each step links to the next and it is important to follow the sequence in order to increase your closure rate. It is more difficult to get Desire and Action if you do not gain Attention or generate Interest.

Another aspect of a systemized sales call is to script out your process. It is not about being mechanical; rather, it is about making sure you are thorough in your process.

Following a sequence and scripts helps you develop a Systemized Sales Call and your unnatural behavior becomes natural behavior. You develop unnatural natural behavior.

Before you try to sell anything, you need to know what the customer wants and needs. You do this by way of asking questions. It is likely you will ask questions throughout the sales process. Depending on what type of product or service you are selling, the sales cycle may be very short or it could be something that happens over a period of time.

To generate Interest, show the customer what you can do for them. To cultivate Desire, know the questions your customer will ask and answer the question according to the customer’s communication style. One question could be answered three or four different ways depending on who your customer is and how they communicate.

When value has been established and the customer will truly benefit, we have an obligation to help them to say, “Yes.” We also have an obligation not to sell something to someone who really doesn’t need it or will not benefit from it. It is far nobler to walk away from a sale than to sell someone something they don’t need or want.

True professionals acknowledge they are in this for the long haul. It is not a matter of simply selling to be selling. It is knowing your product or service can, and will, make a difference to those you come in contact with. It is about strategic influence