Suffering and Grace?

I recently was pointed to the movie “Ram Dass – Going Home” by the Netflix algorithm.  The short 30 minute movie features Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) sharing thoughts on his life after suffering from a stroke.  Ram Dass died in 2019 and was a widely recognized spiritual teacher in the US popularizing eastern spirituality and yoga starting in the 1960’s.  I would like to share with you a short excerpt from the movie which particularly stuck with me.  Ram Dass says this about suffering and death:

“So when I sit with somebody,

the first thing I have to do

is open myself to all my reactions

to their predicament.

All of it, all of the pain of it.

Grieve for the other person’s loss.

And when they feel heard in the grief,

then we can start to meet

behind the grief.

And I’m faced with the paradox that I,

as a human, with a human emotional heart,

want to take away your suffering.

And at the same moment,

there’s another part of me

that understands that suffering is grace,

that suffering is the sandpaper,

from the spiritual point of view,

that is awakening people.[1]

I have seen the shock, despair and pain in the hospital and I believe, as Ram Dass said, that we can meet another “behind the grief” after working through the pain together.  While I don’t believe that suffering is grace, since suffering is not caused by God, I do believe that God can use even something as terrible as suffering as a means of grace if we are open to it. A good chaplain friend of mine said once “I do not believe there is a reason in suffering, but I do believe one can find a purpose in suffering.”  This is what Ram Dass refers to “the sandpaper, […] that is awakening people.”  God’s grace is always “out there” available to us.  If we invite God’s grace to enter into our suffering it can help us to connect more deeply with God and as a result connect to life and living itself.  If you suffer or are journeying with someone in their suffering it is my prayer for you today that God’s love and grace will transform your painful experience into something bigger, something that results in you finding refuge in your most trying times.

May God bless you and keep you.  May he shine his face upon you and give you his peace.  Amen

Click the picture to see Ram Dass going home on Netflix (subscription required)


[1] Movie: Ram Dass “Going Home” https://www.scripts.com/script.php?id=ram_dass%2C_going_home_16554&p=3

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