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Are there surprising benefits in challenging times?

There are two ways to think about painful events from our past.

I can think of past traumas in my life -- such as the sudden loss of a spouse, the abrupt collapse of the spiritual community that had been my home, two bouts of depression -- as afflictions. Which they were, of course, or so I thought at the time. There were times I wouldn’t have minded at all if I didn’t wake up in the morning.

But as I enter my 80th year I’m thrilled out of my gourd to see a potentially rich opportunity in those devastating experiences that I didn’t see before in quite the same way.

The lessons we have learned may assist others

The lessons you and I have learned and the ways in which we navigated our way back from hell may assist others and be of interest to others as they face similar challenges in their own life.

To be very blunt and practical about this, I believe I may be able to create interesting and inspirational “products” based in my own life lessons and experiences that could make a difference in other people’s lives. While at the same time they create a living for me and JoAnn in our latter years.

Perhaps the same opportunity is there for you too if you are interested?

A win-win situation

This is what Martha Beck, the celebrated life coach says in her great new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: “A lot of people tell me, ‘I need to find my passion.’ They rarely realize that the word ‘passion’ is from the Latin pati, ‘to suffer”, or that passion originally meant ‘pain’ (as in The Passion of the Christ)…

“Wayfinders of all cultures know that healing the self from any kind of torment is the groundwork for healing others, for creating positive change in the world of Form and thereby establishing your career, your life’s work.” It's a win-win idea, she affirms.

"Can I really be happy after living through this hell?"

Martha goes on to say: "Without deep suffering, menders can't possibly help the people who will later look into their eyes and ask, "Can I really be happy after living through this hell?"

Count on it, she says. "Whatever you're suffering is leading you toward your life's purpose. It's giving you depth, resonance, street cred. It's turning you into a healer – on one condition: you must not stop tracking."

Please share your thoughts. I send you blessings and hope you’ll enjoy the picture of the large blue spruce tree that grows just outside our front door. It's May 1 as I write these words. How I love this magnificent tree as it puts out new shoots (buds?) in readiness for the next phase of its life.

Oh, and by the way, a wild bunny lives under this tree. It's the strangest thing. He (or is it she?)  seems to show up and say hello at just the right time when I'm feeling a bit challenged by something or other.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend. Also, please click here to check out my new Kindle book, The Raven Who Spoke with God.


{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth Nunn May 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Ha! As I read this I am in the chaotic move-prep for leaving Santa Fe and moving to Bend, OR. Once again, the agony of change preceeds the joy of newness. Having survived and risen above so many traumas of my life, I have shared the process of coming through with so many others…mostly in my work as a social worker…often as a friend. So, yes, I am interested in sharing the wealth of my life lessons with you and others. After all, that’s why we have each other.


Daniel Cartwright May 2, 2012 at 8:41 am

Elizabeth, Life in Bend is good…. and what a great time of the year to move here! Especially if you are a ‘pescedaro/a’. Let me know if I can assist


Christopher Foster May 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Hi Elizabeth,
It is remarkable how often there is pain that goes along with the birth of the new. I can’t help but feel that your adventurous move to Bend is going to give you a lot of new “material” in the way of new life lessons learned, and new wealth of experience to share with others.
You have so much to offer in your life Elizabeth. It will be exciting to see what “surprising benefits” occur in your own life and through you to others consequent upon your move.
Give my love to Bend:-) I’ve never been there but I believe it is a beautiful and special spot.
In friendship


gitte May 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

I do belive there are benefits after hard times, you learn to appreciate the ‘little’ things a lot more, although it is hard when you are midst of a hard time to understand that. But there can’t be a rainbow without a little rain 🙂
and what a beautiful tree!


Christopher Foster May 1, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hi Gitte, Thanks so much for sharing. You’re so right about appreciating the little things more deeply when we’ve come through a hard time. It can wake us up to what’s really important and the real gift of simple moments. Love your analogy of a rainbow. Take care and God bless.


Barbara May 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Yes indeed, we learn and grow. I have been doing a lot of that lately, but always with a smile. Oh, there are moments that the smile disappears for a bit, but not for long.

I see others around me who are much worse off, either physically or because they make things so difficult by the way they look at life. For me, life is a gift and as they note, even roses have thorns.
Barbara recently posted..An Oft Used quote from Shakespeare: To Thine Own Self be True.


Christopher Foster May 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm

What more can we do Barbara but “learn and grow,” as you say, and give our best. I am very glad to hear that while the smile may disappear for a little while it soon comes back. You’re doing great. Always such a pleasure to hear from you. Stay strong.


Rick May 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Father Jacques Philippe (who has written some wonderful small treatises on peace) speaks of consenting to that which we did not choose. My experience is that this is easier to do when reflecting after the pain has passed, but a bit more challenging when we are in the middle of an uncomfortable circumstance.

Thus, we call upon extraordinary Grace and abandonment to Divine Providence in those rough waters, trusting the mystery will unfold according to the designs of our loving God.


Christopher Foster May 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Beautiful words and a beautiful spirit Rick. Thanks for sharing. You sum things up perfectly. I love the reference to Father Philippe, a lot of wisdom there isn’t there. Blessings.


Rick May 1, 2012 at 5:30 pm

My daughter suicided in 1990 at the age of 21. It was 10 years before that event was not a major part of my day. So many questions, and virtually no answers. What I found is that it is a journey of one foot in front of the other, ask and ask and ask again the questions in your mind.

The questions are not answered, at least not yet, but they seem to fade away, lose their once vital importance and are replaced with a deep knowing of the hearts of others in similar situations. I know the apparent insanity that those who lose a child seem to be thrust into, I know the anger so deep and the lack of ease for years at a time.

And the blessing is that I have a depth that I can’t imagine finding any other way. Hard won I must say.


Christopher Foster May 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Your words tug at the heart Rick. They really do. But they also bring up a sense of awe and admiration for the courage and wisdom that you have summoned and continue to summon in handling such a tragic loss.

Yes. Hard won puts it mildly. But I do want to thank you for your sharing and express the solidarity or agreement that I feel with you as you continue the journey that is yours to travel. Love and blessings to you.


Bill May 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

In my 72 years, I am perhaps beginning to understand that hard trials are opportunities for personal and spiritual growth and are divine gifts to help us detach from the fragile things of this world and be replaced with divine understanding.


Christopher Foster May 2, 2012 at 8:40 am

Bill, thanks, you express yourself beautifully here. I agree with you entirely. Look, as one old guy to another can I add another thought into the mix. I think aging itself, something we are taught to think is so bad, can be seen and experienced also as a divine gift. An opportunity for personal and spiritual growth that perhaps simply wasn’t available in the same way when we were younger and oh so busy:-)


Glori May 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Yes there can be happiness. I like to believe there will be anyway. As someone who went through and is still going through tough times, even if I don’t feel the actual happiness now, I’m thankful that all these experiences make me stronger.
I know it can help me in the future.
Glori recently posted..10 Introvert Quotes to Get You Thinking… and Smiling


Christopher Foster May 2, 2012 at 8:44 am

Hi Glori, I just want to jump in for a moment and thank you for your comments to this post. And thank you so much Rick for your contribution and the lovely quote you describe hanging on your wall. Appreciate so much what you have both added to this conversation.


Rick May 1, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Glori, I don’t know if I’m allowed to comment on someone else’s post or not. But will until told not to.
One of the quotes that I have framed is from an unknown source and says “Only the heart that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrow comes to stretch out spaces in the heart for Joy.”
I have had this on my wall and in my heart for maybe twenty years now. It may well be that I do not know the fullness of Joy as yet, but I suspect that gratitude is a key.


Glori May 2, 2012 at 7:17 am

That’s beautiful Rick.
Thank you. 🙂 I really appreciate it.
Glori recently posted..10 Introvert Quotes to Get You Thinking… and Smiling


Pichay May 2, 2012 at 9:18 am

Thai culture have reputation “land of smiles.” But land have many litter prove people use unhealthy means keep smileing. Much abuse stimulants and drugs like amphetmine. Now shops sell M150 stimulant legal! Alcohol abuse also, no matter… most very friendly and importance family strong. I think you walk Buddha Way. Come Thailand and you have many smiles many people admire you…only walk and smile. no word require…


Christopher Foster May 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

Pichay, thank you so much for your very kind and delightful comment. You’re a good ambassador for your country:-) I have never been to Thailand, and I haven’t heard about its reputation as a “land of smiles.” But I can believe it. I do believe it. If I ever have the chance to make a visit I sure will say hello and smile right back at you. But look, because of this internet thing the truth of the matter is I’m smiling at you right now and you’re smiling at me. So how cool is that?

I love what you say about how family is very important in your country. Love and Blessings to you Pichay and thanks again for sharing.


Kenneth Lim May 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

Hi Chris, I concur with your sentiments relative to challenging times. Back some years ago I made up this short instruction that I gave to patients who were facing difficult situations. Needless to say I had to prove this when I came up with a health circumstance and my son committed suicide last year.

Here it is, titled SHIFT HAPPENS: Life is constantly bringing to us situations, inconveniences, predicaments, dilemmas, quandaries and vexing questions. If we JUDGE them as “Bad”– SHIT happens. Alternatively, with a simple switch in consciousness we can approach them as opportunities and challenges. No judgement – good or bad. We then have the chance to see more clearly, act accordingly, learn the lesson then SHIFT Happens – just change, a positive experience.

Easy to say, not always easy to do. A close friend has said many times,”Things don’t happen to you, they happen for you to learn a lesson.” Supposed vicissitudes in life are constantly presenting themselves to us to see where we stand….. Ken


Christopher Foster May 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Boy. SHIFT happens sounds like a much better outcome to me than the alternative. Thanks for sharing these thoughts Ken, and I want to offer a ton of love and encouragement to you as you navigate your way through these devastating experiences and open your heart to new and ongoing positive change.

I’m with you. We really are in this together. And beyond that, we are loved more deeply and irrevocably than I think any of us can realize. I love the Native American quote, ‘Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky.”

Love and blessings to you Ken.


Maddi Newman May 2, 2012 at 11:40 am

The quote from Martha Beck that I take to heart today: “A lot of people tell me, ‘I need to find my passion.’ They rarely realize that the word ‘passion’ is from the Latin pati, ‘to suffer”, or that passion originally meant ‘pain’ (as in The Passion of the Christ).”

So am I really seeking or living “passion”? Not so much. But whatever is the absence of passion, what is that? And I’m not so sure I’m after that either. Yeah, so food for thought.


Christopher Foster May 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Thank you so much for sharing Maddi. Food for thought is right. But I’ll say this. Life has an uncanny ability to teach us what we need to know if we give it half a chance. Blessings to you.


Melanie May 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

This is exactly what I needed to read at this very moment! What to do with all that I’ve been through and learned in the process? It occurs to me that one of the most important things we learn as toddlers is how to share and I just wrote that on a Freecycle application of why I wanted to be a member – because I believe in sharing.
All my life someone somewhere has been willing to share something with me and it’s always just what I need. I am most grateful to accept your kind offer and yes I am very interested in SHARING my life lessons and experiences. Blessings to you and yours – Melanie


Christopher Foster May 3, 2012 at 10:04 am

Good for you, Melanie. Good for you. I appreciate so much your confirming what has been percolating in my own heart and brain this past little while.

I’m reminded for some reason of a book I read some years back that really made a difference for me, by a guy called Arnold Patent. He was talking about the power of mutual cooperation. In any case I want you to know I just love this opportunity to connect with you in this way and wish you very well in your unfolding journey.

Martha Beck uses the term “Team” to describe a tribe of kindred spirits that she feels is gathering in the world in these difficult times. I think she’s absolutely right. Blessings back to you.


Trefor May 3, 2012 at 6:10 am

Great topic Chris, as I look back on my life I’m able to give thanks for all the good times, but now, especially for the not so good times. For they have been the real teaching points in my life that brought about change, whether I wanted it or not, and shaped who I’ve become, or more to the point who I’m meant to BE.

So today I’m able to question any aspect that challenges me and presses my buttons as as gift and it’s up to me if I take the wrapping off to see whats inside.The great line from Amazing Grace (great movie worth seeing) sums it up…..”I was blind, but now I see.”
May you all see the silver lining in every cloud.


Christopher Foster May 3, 2012 at 10:11 am

Thanks for sharing these beautiful thoughts and experiences Trefor. Yes, wasn’t that a terrific movie, Amazing Grace, I think I’ve seen it at least twice and thanks for reminding me about it because I think it’s time to see it again:-)

I’m in awe how a “wave” of deeper seeing and experiencing seems to moving in many people. Maybe we’re connected more closely than we realize?


Genevieve Ross May 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

I embrace the worst events of my life (day to day: my computer crashing, and life altering: my spouse died suddenly at the age of 46) as essential to my spiritual development. Without bad things happening how would I recognize and appreciate the good. I try to think of all events as building blocks of my foundation.


Christopher Foster May 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Thank you for sharing in such a touching way Genevieve. Your words are inspiring and filled with light. Blessings.


Elke May 3, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Hello again, Chris.

About a year ago one of my good friends rang me up in tears. She was separating from her husband. Through the sobs she asked me if I could give her any advice, as I have had some experience in these matters, being divorced twice. She made me chuckle and I still find it wonderful that she just blurted this somewhat scandalous fact out. I gave her the advice to cry her heart out and not to stop until she simply cannot cry anymore. My numerous tears and a stuation which should in some people’s eyes be totally embarrassing, has lead to me being able to sympathise truly with my friend and see the funny side of it too!
Ebb and flow comes to mind, yet again… 😉
Have a good weekend!


Christopher Foster May 4, 2012 at 10:41 am

Wonderful Elke. Thanks so much for sharing. Ebb and flow. If that’s the way life likes to operate who are we to take issue with it?
Your story of your interaction with your friend is very touching. How cool that you were able to offer her some real help because of your own experience. You have a good weekend too.


Andi-Roo May 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I love that pain is a training process preparing us to become ambassadors for others who may be enduring similar aches. Just recently a very dear family friend asked how I was able to pull myself out of depression — because I have written about it so often, apparently I now come across as a “survivor” of tragedy. I try to live up to the title’s weight. Now I know I can’t succumb, because others are looking at me to show them the way out of this tunnel. In my own darkness, I even so have become someone else’s light. How crazy is THAT? Not glad to have endured, but AM glad it enables me to help others. Every tragedy comes with a silver lining, even if we aren’t able to see until later where the glitter was hidden.

Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz
Andi-Roo recently posted..No Las Vegas For Me, Thanks!


Christopher Foster September 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for your beautiful comment Andi-Roo, and again, I’m so sorry for the long delay. I somehow overlooked your comment. So true. Because you have had a victory you can share that victory with the world. Blessings.


Noch Noch | be me. be natural. May 9, 2012 at 2:26 am

Hi Chris

You remind me of a book “the monk and the riddle”
in it, it says that if we all think about helping others simply by sharing our experience, it makes us “richer”, and somehow the money / business will follow too…

But you are right, that simply by our experience we can be helping others. I didn’t realize it at first, but just sharing my story of depression and suicide helps others open up too

Thanks for sharing!
Noch Noch
Noch Noch | be me. be natural. recently posted..for me the bells toll – taking a break, getting married


Christopher Foster May 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

Very happy to hear from you Noch. Thank you for your words here. You bet, just by being brave enough to share your life journey and how you are moving forward in a challenging situation is a true inspiration to many, many people — even if they have no idea you exist or who you are. I’m just happy I do know who you are and that you are part of my life. Blessings to you.


Cindy May 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I’ll be a millionaire then with all the suffering that happened in my life.

From death of my mom when i was 12 to nearly losing home last year (we couldn’t pay the rent)

But it’s true – am stronger than ever now. I just wish that people didn’t need to pass thru all this..and still be strong, but maybe that’s impossible.
Cindy recently posted..Nutritionist Online Degree Programs


Christopher Foster May 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hi Cindy, thank you for sharing. This wild thought came to me just now as I was thinking about your words. Don’t give this any attention unless it strikes a little chord in you. But I wondered if it would help to find a nice little stone of some kind that you could keep and physically hold once in awhile to remind you that there really is a core of absolute strength and stability always present within you. Blessings.


nathir hamid naji August 10, 2012 at 12:21 am

…interestig. i need to read more.


Christopher Foster August 10, 2012 at 10:41 am

Thank you Nathir. You are very welcome here. Blessings to you.


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