I have two sons that love gardening. My youngest converted our sand box into his own gardening spot and much to my delight, keeps me supplied with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and all kinds of herbs. He loves to bring in fresh basil when I’m making spaghetti and fresh tomatoes for salad.
My oldest has a huge plot in a community garden and grows all kinds of organic and heirloom vegetables. He’s loves the full arc of gardening — learning about seeds, planting times and methods, and then creating dishes from his harvest. Recently, he made us a beautiful salad and stir fry with a grocery bag full of various lettuces and greens he’d pulled just a few hours earlier.
Good gardeners know that to produce a harvest, the seed must be buried deep in dark soil. No seed will bear fruit sitting in sunlight. Only when it is planted deep, and broken open, will new life spring from it.
Our darkest places can also produce good fruit. There are lessons we would never learn, insight we would never have, character that would never get shaped unless we have been broken open in the darkest place of suffering.
We may grieve over the circumstances that got us here, but suffering – if we will let it – can produce good fruit. There is good fruit in brokenness — fruit that would never have come if we lived every day in the sun.
Part of my good fruit has come because suffering has sloughed off much of what doesn’t matter in life. In one hour, as I performed CPR on Dan and called out to him in his last moments, life forever crystallized.
My perspective shifted and suffering has brought clarity to what matters most in life.
1. Little things are little things. Life is too short to get tangled up over the little things in life. If I’ve learned anything in the last four years, it’s about the frailty of life. Even if you live a “full life”, blink a few times and you’ll wind up middle-aged; a few more times and you’re in the golden years.
A week after Dan’s death, I went into my bank to straighten out an issue. The bank had incorrectly set up an account and after calling back and forth to home offices in California, the bank teller apologetically explained she’d have to close the account altogether and set it up in a different format.
“It’s okay,” I responded. “If that’s the worst thing that happens today, it will be a good day.” I could see her visibly relax and we ended up having a good conversation about the Lord as we completed all the paperwork.
The bank had made a mistake. It was an inconvenience. The teller was noticeably flustered. But, in the scope of life, it was a little thing. Life is way too short to get upset over the little things — and most annoyances in life are little things.
When we feel our temperature starting to rise over the long line, the backed-up traffic, the unthinking comment, the cashier’s error, we need to remind ourselves of this: if this is the worst thing that happens today, it’s gonna be a pretty good day.
2. Relationships are paramount.
If suffering has clarified what doesn’t matter, it’s also revealed what does matter. When life is short, we realize that we don’t have time to waste with being offended or holding a grudge. This is not an easy lesson and it’s not always easy to walk out.
But it’s a good lesson. It means dying to self and it means putting others first. It means I should be quick to say I’m sorry, to forgive and move on, to let it go and not to take offense.
It also means I need to trust God with things that are outside of my control. All you mamas with older kids are nodding in agreement. I’ve had to learn that I need to put my relationship with my children way above my control over my children.
When I start to feel offended or I’m ready to list out all the reasons I’m right, I’m learning to stop and ask: will these words nourish this relationship or harm it?
The good fruit of our suffering does not in any way justify Dan’s death and it doesn’t lessen our very deep grief. But it helps us thank God that in the suffering, He doesn’t just promise to walk us through it, but to bring abundant good fruit from it.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. Psalm 126:5-6
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This is Day 27 in the series 31 Days: Braving the Broken. You can find all posts in this series here.