Suffering with Purpose
By Anthony Casperson
Early on in the game Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the player comes across a dwarven cleric named Harrim. He eventually joins your party and becomes an option to go out with you on your adventures.
There are a number of people on various forums who complain about having this character tag along. He appreciates the beauty of the end of a thing. He views death as a natural event that shouldn’t be feared. And the end of all things is on his mind (and lips) quite often.
To many of those who complain about this character, he sounds depressing. And they want nothing to do with him.
I, on the other hand, really like the character. (Probably surprising no one.)
As you learn more about the cleric, he tells your character that he was an outcast of the dwarven people. A part of a dwarf becoming an adult in the world of Pathfinder is the requirement to craft something. Whether it’s armor, a weapon, stonework, or even a less dwarvish type of craft, it doesn’t matter. Just having crafted something yourself is important.
However, Harrim continued to fail at every craft he put his hand to. Right when he was about to finish, the craft would crumble and fail. His people called him cursed. And so he left his home, his people, and their ways. Rejecting much of dwarf-dom, he traveled the world and came across his new understanding of the world.
Eventually, the story takes you to a place that Harrim desires for you to take him. An anvil, on which many a great dwarven craft had been forged, was lost in a particular mine. When the party reaches the location, you learn that the anvil had been corrupted long ago by an apprentice of the master over the relic. And something needed to happen with this item to keep it from further corrupted work.
In anger, Harrim hits the anvil. Not usually a smart move. At least if you want your hand to stay unbroken. But as the cleric does, the anvil crumbles to dust, everything but the “heart” of the anvil. It comes as a shock, but Harrim has kept the anvil from continuing in its corrupted state.
A little later in the game, some other dwarves come to ask your character about renovating some other ruins in the land. But the problem arises that an adamantine golem (a robot-like being made of an indestructible metal) has gone haywire in the ruins. Having long guarded the ruins, it thinks the incoming dwarves are intruders.
When your party (with Harrim) arrive, the fight with the golem finishes fairly quickly. But as the golem falls, your character needs to remove a piece of the golem to stop it. However, Harrim gets there first. As he touches this supposedly unbreakable metal, the golem turns to dust, everything but the “heart” of the golem.
It’s at this point that a dwarven paladin witnesses Harrim’s strange ability and recognizes something about it. Once a generation, a dwarf is born with the ability to unmake things that have lost their usefulness or been corrupted. Since dwarven craft lasts long after their original creators, something needs to be done with all of these works that just sit around unusable or corrupted.
There was a purpose in the things Harrim suffered. His lack of ability to craft wasn’t a curse. It was a blessing meant for the betterment of his people. However, because his culture misunderstood the purpose of Harrim’s “curse,” they drove him out without mercy. And they nearly missed out on the purposeful blessing all because they assumed that there was a fault in Harrim rather than their understanding.
They added suffering upon suffering because they assumed the way things are for most of dwarven culture was the only way.
As I reached that part in Harrim’s sidequest story, I sat back and thought about how often things that we view as curses actually have a purpose. It’s not necessarily because God is mad at us, or because we’ve done something wrong.
Suffering, dealing with “negative” aspects of human experience, can strengthen our faithfulness according to James 1:2-4. And that faithfulness grows into spiritual maturity. And that’s just one possible purpose.
My mind immediately went to Job. We see a faithful, just, and righteous man brought low because God allowed it to be so. There was no sin. No fall. No failure. But everything was taken away from him. And when some of his “wise friends” dropped by to “explain” things to him, they misunderstood the purpose of the suffering.
They joined their culture in claiming that things always worked this one certain way. “Blessings come to those who do good things, and bad things to those who do bad. So you, Job, have to have done something wrong. Just admit it and things will get better again.” And because of this line of thought, there had to be something wrong with Job rather than their perspective.
But in the end, God reminded Job that the Creator is within his rights to do with his creation as he sees fit. He’s the one who imbues the purpose to begin with. And Job bowed before his almighty Creator. But the “wise” guys? They were reprimanded by God, told to repent, and have righteous Job make the sacrifices for them.
(As a side note, part of me still wonders if Job’s “friends” continued in their wrongful line of thinking after this godly face slap, like so many people today still continue to think even if they have come across the truths found in the book of Job.)
Though we today in the western world have not suffered as much as our brothers and sisters around the world, or throughout history, that doesn’t mean that we won’t ever reach a fuller extent of suffering. And I want to cut the misunderstanding off at the pass.
When we suffer loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of income, loss of relationships, and even loss of life, let’s not think that it’s absolutely because there’s something wrong with us. There is always a purpose to the suffering. And many times it’s about something other than a corrective measure.
It might be so that others can learn the truth about the types of things we suffer, like Job. Or we might be called to grow in faithfulness, as James mentions. But regardless of the specific purpose, we can’t let our cultural norms add more suffering to the trials just because they wrongfully define the purpose of the trial.
Just because a culture says that everyone has to craft something doesn’t mean that there can’t be a beautiful purpose in finding the end of an ineffective or corrupted craft. And sometimes a suffering person hung on a tortuous cross of death brings the only hope of salvation to humanity.