The Gift of Suffering?

There are some mornings when I feel like all the forces are in concert with another.

I was delighted to open my window a crack before I went the sleep last night. Early this morning before dawn, I listened to the rain, maybe even some thunder though I’m still unsure if that part was a dream, regardless I savored the moment. Why? It’s not a real deep thought: I was grateful that I had the foresight to pick up countless bags of dog poop yesterday! Even though the backyard is now a muddy swamp, all of the remaining remnants will seep into the soil. In time, and its appropriate season, a different iteration of life will emerge from the mud and its muck.

A good reminder of the yin and yang of life came this morning when I randomly opened to page 87 of Comfort Prayers: Suffering Arrives with a Gift, by Janine Canan. Two lines that most resonate:

Suffering dances madly with Joy.

Suffering is the wind that sweeps your heart clean.


Suffering arrives with a gift.

Suffering has a purpose.

Suffering wants you to wake up.

Suffering will wait for ages.

Suffering knows what is real.

Suffering is so deep she goes all the way.

Suffering plunges into your blood.

Suffering opens your darkest closet.

Suffering waters your dusty garden with her tears.

Suffering holds the golden keys.

Suffering is a devoted mother wolf.

Suffering watches you shake in fear and fall to your knees sobbing.

Suffering is the supreme teacher.

Suffering takes you behind the glitter.

Suffering leads you to God.

Suffering is a moody poet.

Suffering makes poetries, paintings, and symphonies of sorrow.

Suffering is a vast cathedral.

Suffering is a fast foaming river.

Suffering is an old workhorse.

Suffering is a melting sun.

Suffering dances madly with Joy.

Suffering is the wind that sweeps your heart clean.

Suffering is the messenger who rides the rainbow.

Suffering is driven to find your destiny.

Suffering hungers from your burning core.

Suffering is a tough officer of peace.

Suffering’s eyes are mirrors of mystery.

Suffering washes a tiny sand dollar up on the shore.

Suffering shines her flashlight in the dark.

Suffering is the holy wanderer who serarches for your soul.

Suffering is your sacred spouse.

Friend, don’t waste her extravagent love.


I never fully considered the upside of “suffering” until I read Janine’s poem this morning, after which I smiled. When I awoke this morning, I was intent on finding beauty today. I was intent on finding joy. I was intent on writing something uplifting this morning. I was intent on appreciating happiness. I found it in Janine’s poem.

When I eloped with my second husband, I called home to tell my parents. My father’s response, “Did you get the first one annulled?” Stunned but not surprised, I thanked my father for his lack of congratulations and asked that he please have Mom call me when she arrived home. Though angry and disappointed I was steadfast in my decision not to annul my first marriage. To annul it, in my mind, would erase it. And to erase it, meant it didn’t occur. Without all of the experiences in that relationship, would I have ever my met second husband? Probably. Would I have married him? Probably not.

And that’s why “Suffering dances madly with Joy” is the gift this morning. Suffering and joy are yin and yang. I can not enumerate the times when I have been in a world of hurt, and paused and found, humor, laughter, and a silver lining that revealed joy.  It is as my father has often said (I think probably to both husbands when they asked for his blessing to marry me) that there are hills and valleys, neither of which you appreciate without the other.

“Suffering is the wind that sweeps your heart clean.” I embrace this line wholeheartedly. It is the healing of the broken heart that opens us to love. And love is joy and sadness, and happiness and pain, and high and low, and generous and stingy, and full and sparse, and black and white and gray, and intermittent and constant.  Love is present in every season. Love cycles through every hour of the day. Love is accompanied and sometimes buried in other emotions, which is when we often deny its existence, but it never dies.

Today I accept the joy of suffering as a gift. That is the lesson of Janine’s poem. When I unwrap it, the loveliness of this life is revealed.

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