A few days ago, I was behind the wheel on my way to visit a sick person, which was about seven kilometres journey. At one point, I came to a hilly road. I accelerated the engine higher. Suddenly, I met a tipper lorry in front of me. It was carrying a trip of fresh sand, dripping water on the road. The lorry was making a hopeless sound as it was ascending the hill. The fume coming out of its exhaust pipe was as black as charcoal. Darkness descended instantly in front of me. I slowed down and put on the headlamps in order to see. Despite the light, my vision was blurred. The lorry was moving as if it would roll backwards. Since life has no duplicate, I reversed and stopped a few poles away. In a twinkle of an eye, the conductor of the lorry jumped down and attempted to push the fully loaded lorry from behind. It was an effort in futility. As he was doing so, an atomic sound was coming out of his waste pipe. Both the lorry and the conductor were polluting the air at the same time. I covered my nose as I was laughing. Then the conductor began to put a wedge at the back of the tyre to avoid it rolling back. The driver was sweating and driving at a slow pace. As I was watching the scenario, I saw a bold inscription at the rear of the lorry: “Never give up!” Immediately my thinking faculty started reflecting. Indeed the driver and the conductor never gave up until they managed to scale through the hilly road.
In the year the former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, became the President of Nigeria as a result of the death of his Boss, President Musa Yar’adua, I was pasturing the Flock of God at Abagana. A newly married couple blessed with a bouncing baby boy (BBB) came into my office. They were extraordinarily happy. They came to register for the baptism of the BBB. I asked them the name they would like to give the baby. They said, “Good luck.” I couldn’t help laughing. Surprisingly they asked me, “Father, why are you laughing?” It was a tearful laughter. After wiping away the tears in my eyes, I replied with a question, “Are you giving your baby the name Goodluck because Dr Goodluck Jonathan became President by cheering good luck?” They answered, “Yes, father. We want the same good luck to follow our child all the days of his life.” Deputy Governor Goodluck Jonathan became Governor of Bayelsa state when his Boss was impeached. From governor, he was luckily chosen to be Vice President. Then he rose to the Presidency also by good luck. Laughter this time hit my head on the wall. Then I made this request to the couple: “Please I would like you to add the name Mary to it so that it becomes Goodluck Mary.” The father of the child shook his head sideways and said, “Please father we do not want our child to suffer. The name Mary has something to do with suffering. During the Presentation of the child Jesus in the temple, Simeon said to Mary his mother, ‘A sword shall pierce your heart’. Therefore we do not want a sword to pierce our hearts.” We went into another laughter session which lasted about ten minutes. Is there any good luck without any atom of suffering? Ask ex-President Goodluck Jonathan if he did not suffer.
Life is a struggle. There is a certain man whose name is Godwin. He is a devout Christian and a hardworking businessman. He is also prayerful and honest. However, his business was not thriving at all. He has tried his luck on different aspects, but all to no avail. He is one of the pillars in his parish church as far as faith is concerned. His business associates call him Pope as a nickname. Often he kneels before the Holy of Holies asking tearfully, “Oh God, what have I done? Is this how the Pope is suffering? God, please, help me! I am at sea.” One day, one of his progressive business associates took him aside and started brainwashing him. He is a member of a notorious secret cult known as Satanism. He said to him, “I was a very pious Christian like you before. When I was in trouble, I asked God for prosperity, but it was not forthcoming. Then I turned to Satan and made the same request. Today I am overflowing with wealth. Money is not my problem anymore. If you become initiated, you will see wonders happening in your life.” Hearing this, Godwin became confused. Should he abandon Christianity and embrace Satanism? When he went home that day he narrated everything to Hope, his wife. Hope encouraged him to be hopeful because God never disappoints. Satan disappoints. Godwin was in a real dilemma. His presence in the church began to wane. His wife supported him in prayer night and day. Fortunately, God heard their prayers and things began to improve in the family and in business. Unexpectedly, Godwin won a Federal Government lottery. Today, he, his wife and children are living comfortably in Abuja. A patient dog eats the fattest bone.
As I was writing this piece, a distressed woman came to me with tears in her eyes. She explained her ordeals to me. According to her, life has become useless for her. Her first son travelled out to an unknown country for over two decades now. Since then he has neither called on the phone nor come home. All the enquiries her family has been making about his location and wellbeing yielded no fruit. Indeed she does not know whether he is still alive or dead. She also lost her first daughter recently as a result of acute sickness. On the other hand, her second daughter just lost her dearest husband and breadwinner. The only son with her now is jobless and hopeless. Tears were flowing like flood down her cheeks as she was narrating all these ordeals. For her, it is better to die than to live in sorrow. My words of consolation to her were like water falling on a stone. She was sighing, regretting and grinding her teeth. I became afraid in case she died in my office. I may be accused of murder. Thus, after praying and sprinkling Holy Water on her, I helped her to walk into my car. I took her peacefully home. I gave her some words of encouragement and asked her never to give up. I laid my hands on her head and said, “Wipe away your tears. By God’s grace, your son will soon call or come back alive.” She smiled for the first time and chorused, “Amen!!!”
This world is not a bed of roses. When a baby is born, it cries at the birth stool. When I left the comfort of my mother’s womb on April Fool’s Day, I cried so much, such that my mother and the midwife were wondering. I was crying because the atmosphere in the womb was conducive while that of the outside womb was unfavourable. Any stubborn baby who comes out of the womb and refuses to cry is given a little beating, which induces it to cry. The cry is very significant. It shows that we are born to suffer. Those who say, “Suffering is not your portion” are deceivers. Some pastors preach only the Gospel of prosperity. They convince their clients that God did not create anyone to suffer while they are suffering themselves. They deceive their unsuspecting clients with false prophecies and extort huge amounts of money from them to solve their personal problems. The clients go home poorer than they came while the false prophets smile at the bank. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Since the unfortunate fall of humanity from grace to grass, suffering has become part and parcel of humanity. Hence, suffering is your portion and my portion. Do not be deceived by prophets of doom. Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross to save us sinful humanity. Therefore, we must follow in his footsteps. Christ himself says, “If you want to be my disciple, renounce yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). If there is no cross, there will be no victory. There cannot be a crown without thorns. A good traveller does not abandon his journey because of the roughness of the road. There is no success without suffering. Nothing comes so easily. You can only reach your destination by perseverance.
The downfall of a man is not the end of his life. If you try and fail, try again. A failure is one who gives up trying again and again. A student who fails an examination should not see it as the end of the world. If you suffer disappointment today, you may experience success tomorrow, if you try again. One of the Lawmakers of the 7th Anambra House of Assembly contested for the seat and failed twice. He did not give up. He contested for the third time and won. Now he is counting his blessings and not his losses. Some persons commit suicide due to the failure they encounter in this life. I emphasize again that suicide is not the solution to any problem. It is rather a crime before God and man. It is better to walk a long distance to achieve success than to take a risky shortcut. Never see your setback as a bitter pill to swallow.
Our country Nigeria is blessed by God with abundant natural and human resources. Our problem is bad leadership and mismanagement of those resources. The baboon continues to work while the monkey is enjoying the fruit of the labour. The Israelites suffered at the hands of Pharaoh in Egypt for about 430 years. At the appointed time, God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery to salvation. Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” Eventually, he led the people out of bondage in Egypt by God’s power and led them to the gate of the Promised Land. Then Joshua led them into it. The Israelites who gave up hope died shamefully in the desert on their way to the Promised Land.
As Nigerians, we are suffering from the hands of bad leaders. Hence hardship and poverty have crucified us. Today Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world. A recent report by the World Poverty Clock reveals that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the most extremely poor people in the whole world. It is a pity. However, let us not despair. No condition is permanent.
Despite this poverty level, if you ask any Nigerian, “How are you?” He or she will respond, “I am fine.” This positive response is just superficial. Underneath, he or she is managing to make ends meet. The life philosophy of Nigerians is “E go better.” That is why Nigerians are said to be the happiest people in the world. Imagine how our happiness would be if we lived in a progressive country with good leaders who have the interest of the citizens at heart!
Fellow Nigerians, let us not give up. One day God will send a leader like Moses who will rescue us from the bondage of poverty, unemployment, hopelessness, hunger, anger, terrorism, banditry, cultism, kidnapping, marginalization, nepotism and tribalism. Those Nigerians contemplating committing suicide due to hardship and disappointments in the country should rescind their decision. It is better to live and suffer temporarily than to die and suffer eternally.
Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
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