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Why do people suffer?

It’s an age-old question that stirs heartache and brain-freeze. Is suffering the result of divine punishment, cultural misfortune or bad genetic luck? Jesus was asked this question and he had a very clear answer: none of the above. Suffering is a call for us to get our own lives right and an opportunity for God’s grace to be shown. (Luke 13:1-5, John 11:4)

Why do people suffer?

I ask this question with renewed urgency when I meet Deih (pronounced ‘Day’). There’s something different about her. All the kids here at DMI’s Muir School for the Deaf in Myanmar are in the same boat. They are all deaf, they have no possessions to their name, their living conditions are extremely basic. But they are all healthy and excitably happy. They thrive at the school and excel in this community-cum-family.

Deih, aged 20, does thrive here and she does excel. But there is sadness in her eyes, a despair, and even – dare I say it – a fear. I draw near to her with the interpreter on the deck outside the food hall and ask her if I can interview her. She seems to withdraw a little at the question but bravely signs ‘yes’. We take a seat and she looks at me with an air of vulnerability.

I soon discover the reason for her demeanour. Deih suffers from Usher Syndrome. Usher Syndrome is a rare condition unique to the deaf in which they also lose their sight. Since childhood, Deih’s vision has been slowly narrowing. At present she has no peripheral vision whatsoever and can only see directly in front of herself. In time she will be completely deaf and blind. She will enter of world of silence and darkness, and it terrifies her. There is no cure.

Why do people suffer?

Deih volunteers in the kitchen.

I’ve asked this of myself at times when I catch the flu, struggle with a relationship or deal with work-related stress. Deih makes me drastically reconsider my definition of suffering. Her level of hardship is unfathomably high.

And yet her life is not without the grace of God. Although she has now graduated from the school, she stays here, volunteering in the kitchen and playing with the kids. This community is her home and she is safe here. She is loved here. In terms of her physical condition, she tells me frankly, she is really scared about her future. But in terms of her security in the years ahead, she is at peace knowing that she has a family here who will always love and care for her. This is the fruit of DMI’s work and of those who give generously to the school here.

Deih goes to church three days a week and finds great strength in her daily devotions. She has learnt that God loves her deeply and is always with her, even on her darkest days.

I wonder if there is anything I can realistically do for her. I’m an Australian living on the other side of the world. I don’t speak her language. I don’t know her culture. It would be so much easier to put it in the ‘too hard’ basket, look the other way and just focus on the needy in my own neighbourhood. My mind turns to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who is my neighbour? The one, Jesus teaches, who is the most distant from me geographically, culturally and even spiritually is my neighbour. Deih is my neighbour.

I ask her if I can pray for her. She smiles and nods enthusiastically. I ask God to heal her, to arrest and reverse the deterioration of her eyes. And I ask that God would bless her with that special peace and joy that is the sole domain and gift of God. I’m grateful that she has shared her life with me and I tell her this. I’m also grateful that DMI makes it easy for me to give to people like Deih – a neighbour afar, a sister – whose life can be so lifted by the smallest of help. (It costs $120 a month to keep Deih at the school.)

Why do people suffer? So that God’s grace can be seen in people like you and me.

If you would like to know how you can support Deih, any of the kids or teachers, or help meet any of DMI’s needs, please click on the support button below, or mail to