Around 500 years before Christ, a Nepalese man from a privileged background observed a world full of superstition and idolatry. He saw too many people overwhelmed by suffering and misery pinning their hopes for respite in worship of any number of idols and gods who they hoped could save them, or at least address their maladies.
In response to this, Guatama Buddha wrestles with the very human questions of what is the cause of suffering? and how do we alleviate suffering?
His conclusion was that desire for this material world, whether that be desire for possessions, health, security or even desire for another were the cause of suffering. So in order to find a life of peace, a life where where we can find the antidote to suffering we must pursue a life of detachment. His conclusion was that if we can eliminate desire then we eliminate suffering.
Yet, the elimination of desire ultimately robs us of the colour, the beauty and pleasure of life. It even robs us of love. Do you have to lose ourselves to find peace?
What would Jesus say to Buddha? In fact, like Buddha, Jesus too is concerned about human suffering. In the very last book of the Bible, Revelation, we have this picture of the future God has in store for any who choose Him. A future where we dwell with Him, and know a reality where suffering is a thing of the past.
“They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21: 3b-3)
Yet, how is this achieved? The cause of suffering is dealt with. It was the entire reason Jesus came to earth some 2000 years ago. He dealt with our sin by living a perfect life and then surrendering himself to death, so that his sinless life could be offered as a substitute for our lives.
Could it be that sin, rather than desire is the cause of suffering? Could it be that the ultimate suffering is an eternity without the God who made you, fashioned you, and desire what is best for you?
Buddha wrestles with really important questions, and assumes that we have to lose ourselves to find peace. To this Jesus says, the peace you long for is not found in detachment, but union with the God who knows you and desires what is best for you.