From Mahabharat, we learn that when king Pandu died, he left behind five sons. The five brothers - the Pandavas were quite young at that time. From being the sons of a king, they now became dependent upon their uncle, Dhrtrashtra, who was not too favourbly inclined towards them. What did the Pandavas do ?
They did not lose heart due to this unfortunate change of fortune. They tried to become proficient in various arts, like Arjun in archery and Bhim in fighting with mace. As they became older, it became clear that the Kauravs would not give them their rightful share. A war within the Kuru clan, therefore became imminent. In the end, the Pandavas won the battle of Kurukshetra against their cousins because of two reasons. One, they were proficient in fighting ; two, they had the support of Lord Krishna.
When suffering comes which shall surely visit from time to time in this material world, that has been described in the Bhagavad-Geeta as a place of misery (8.15), it can be taken in two different ways. One can either feel sorry for oneself ; or emulate the Pandavas to steel oneself and face it as a challenge.
The story of Pandavas is repeated everyday all over the world, when the sole bread winner is snatched away by the cruel hands of destiny. In countless cases, it has been seen that the children afflicted by such trauma became more responsible. Having been left with no other choice, they strive harder.
Generally, it has also been seen that people produce major changes only when they are forced to do so, essentially during distress. Therefore, the wise ones accept suffering positively and see it as a opportunity to reform themselves. They do not blame God for their suffering but accept it as a wake-up call. How are small children taught to swim ? They are lowered into water under strict supervision and gradually, they learn to swim. How does a bird graduate into flying ? The mother bird pushes the young ones from the branches of a tree, and the bird is forced to fly.
How is anyone ever going to get liberated unless one makes big progress ? And, how is anyone going to make big progress, unless forced to do so ? As good people alone get liberated, they must be mentally prepared to accept suffering. They should treat suffering as a push from the Almighty.
Also liberation is attained only when all the reactions against past misdeeds are accounted for, which is possible by undergoing suffering. It has been seen that good people suffer large doses of suffering just prior to their deaths. Intense suffering towards the end of one’s life ensures removal of all attractions for returning to this material world .
Prodding by suffering is also a great motivator to seek shelter in God ; otherwise, one may try to manage without Him. A wise person seeks answers to his or her sufferings from God. After all, God is the ultimate truth. In any case, any suffering is temporary ( 2.14).
Human body, which is made up of material elements, is definitely destructible as it gets afflicted by old age and diseases (13.9). Lord Krishna counsels his followers to tolerate sufferings, which come in spite of one’s best efforts of avoiding them ( 2.14). He also instructs us to do what our duties entail, and leave the results to Him. He further advises us, “Whatever the results are, accept them in good grace” ( 2.47).
A flute is created only after it undergoes severe tribulations - first as a bamboo shoot, enduring extreme weather, next being cut off from the family members, being dried in hot sun and finally drilled into by a red-hot iron rod. Having accepted that suffering is inevitable, despite one’s endeavour to avoid it, one should treat the same as a motivator. Some people even go to the extent of treating suffering as a mercy of the Lord upon them. They regard it as a divine mechanism to push one to strive harder.
Since soul is indestructible, what permanent damage can the suffering inflict upon anyone ? Suffering gives a chance to show the real strength of one’s character. And, the prize is moksha (liberation) – the best of all rewards.