Life Is Suffering. Isn't That Wonderful?

In the Buddhist tradition the belief that "life is suffering" is one of the foundational principles toward finding oneness, serenity and peace.   

The idea that to live is to suffer, doesn't really feel like the kind of devotional reading that gets people all fired up for their day.  But stick with me because I'm going somewhere with this.  Somewere good, I promise. 

We all know what it means to suffer.  We've all experienced it.  Maybe some of us are experiencing it right now.  It's one of the many things that we all have in common as human beings. 

Mind you, each of suffers in our own way, and in varying degrees, but we all know what it feels like, and it's not something that we particularly enjoy. 

So, this explains why there are so many verses in the Bible about enduring suffering, trusting God through suffering and petitioning God when we are suffering. 

It seems that the Buddhists are on to something. 

I think that the Christian tradition has lost touch with the concept of suffering not only being a fact of life, but also something that helps us grow as humans, both in faith and in hope.  

You see, there are also an abundance of verses in the Bible where the person who is speaking is wondering aloud why God even allows suffering.  And sometimes those wondering words can turn kind of dark. 

If you don't believe me, start reading the Psalms, and you'll experience prayer in a whole new way.  

I read this quote the other day that I wrote down and figured I'd come back to at some point when I was ready to reflect on suffering, prayer and hope in the midst of all of it.

Suffering makes you curious, and to me, it seems, being inquisitive is in fact a healthy part of prayer.  Even Jesus, in his dying hour, asked God a question.  - Jackie Hill Perry

I love the first few words of that quote because it seems so matter-of-fact: 
"Suffering makes you curious..."  

My response to that is quite simply: "You're damn right it makes me curious!  I'm curious why I am the one who is suffering, and why does it have to be so awful, and I wonder pretty hard when it's all going to end." 

Sometimes when I'm listening to the God-thoughts in my head as I'm bemoaning my fate, the response will be something like: "Why not you?  You think you're special?"  

I do, in fact, think I'm special.  We all think we're special.  Every one of us has plenty of reasons as to why we shouldn't have to suffer. 

And yet, we all do. 

In the end, curiosity is what can save us from despair.  And when that curiosity turns to inquisitiveness, and even some pretty hard prayers filled with questions, we just might be on our way to finding serenity even as we suffer. 

The answers don't always come to us easily, mostly because we tend to know what they might be, and we don't want to hear them, even if we're the one thinking them. 

God is not only okay with our questions, God also welcomes them--incuding the ones that are filled with expletives, weeping, fear, rage and resignation.  All of our curiosity is welcomed by a God who loves us, and who suffers with us.  

We will not be able to avoid suffering, but we will be able to avoid being overcome by it. And we can know this when we aren't afraid to wonder, and to question and then at last to surrender.  

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.  


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