Suffering is inevitable; it's what we do with our suffering that matters.  We can't avoid it, so why not do something constructive with it?  What if we were to look deeply into our suffering and through meditation--earnest examination-- glimpse the flowers that can grow from the composted garbage of our suffering?  Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that without disciplined deep looking, we see only our pain and fear.  We are absorbed, even consumed by it.

But in deep looking we can also see the fruit our suffering will bear.  We see with the eyes of the Gardener, who prunes and feeds the vines through suffering (John 15).  And through the eyes of the Gardener we see grapes and peaches, tomatoes and blueberries in the unwanted garbage from the kitchen—for the garbage has become rich, dark compost.

So, I sit in prayer, and turn over and over what could otherwise be only garbage.  I enter my heart and feel the ache of fear and sadness, and I turn it over gain.  I may even have to hold my nose at the stench, but I do not flee.  With the eyes of faith I see flowers blooming, squash and beans and other things that delight eye and tongue.

On this, then, Buddhists and Christians are on the same page, for they both know that from death comes new life, from suffering comes beauty—these are two sides of the same coin.  The one is necessary for the other.  In every pain and loss is a new beginning.

I don’t have to create the flowers.  God has already scattered their seed in the compost of my despair.  But I do have to look, to cultivate a seeing eye for the beauty inside every brokenness.  That is hard, hard work.

AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman