Saturday, October 3, 2015

5 Good things about suffering

1) Suffering doesn't exist. Want proof? What one person considers disastrous, another person is not bothered by at all. So does the event cause suffering? No, our interpretation of the event. So, suffering is not out there. It doesn't exist. Where it does "exist" is within us.

2) Suffering is remedial. It's instructive. It teaches us something. It's impossible to say exactly what. It's different every time. But next time something bad happens, look to see what suffering is trying to tell you.

The problem is that most people never learn the lesson suffering presents to them and so suffer endlessly. (As life keeps trying to teach them the same lesson they haven't been learning.)

3) Suffering is always temporary. 'No way,' you say, 'some suffering is permanent.' Well, it may seem that way but it's not true. Consider this quote from the seventeenth century English preacher, Thomas Watson:

Our sufferings may be lasting, but not everlasting.  

That one requires a little thinking.

4) Suffering reveals what's inside you. You think you're a certain way. You're sure of it. But then you get put under the flame and oh, you are suddenly a very different person! Without that suffering though we live under the delusion that we are one way when we're really much more. Suffering helps us know ourselves.  

5) Suffering is a shadow. Today I turned on the light in my bathroom and saw that the carpet was wet by the toilet. "Oh no," I said softly, thinking of the hassle it implied, the cost of the plumber etc. But when I got down on my hands and knees to feel the carpet it was bone-dry. What gives?

The "wetness" was the shadow the toilet was making on the carpet. Why I never noticed it before I don't know. (Ever hear the acronym for Fear? False Evidence Appearing Real)

Suffering, all evil, is just like that—a shadow. Think of night. Dark, mysterious, dangerous. But really what is night? It's the shadow the earth makes as it revolves around the sun. The light is still there. The light is constant. It's always there.

The shadows we have in our lives are the lessons we've not learned that our suffering has been trying to teach us. Learn the lessons—and poof! the shadows (and suffering) are gone!


  1. Hmmmm I don't know that I completely agree with you my friend.. Honestly more I work through the so called "knots in my past, less I agree with the notion that there is always a lesson to be learned when we endured suffering as you refer to it. But then that makes it all about me. And its not. And sometimes things just happen. Or do they?

  2. Thanks Martha. I can see what you're saying and I agree. It brings to mind what the late writer Christopher Hitchens wrote in his book "Mortality" when he was dying from terminal cancer. I'll paraphrase.

    'Before I had my illness I subscribed to the notion of "whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger." Now I can see that's not the case.'

    So the question I have for you is: When you work through those knots, do you think there's any purpose to them have been there (and the suffering you went through in working through them) or was it purely arbitrary suffering?


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