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Alison W Faith Formation Ink Slingers Sacred Scripture Saints Spiritual Growth

The Eyes of Suffering

The Eyes of Suffering

In the world, you will have hardship” (John 16:33). That’s a statement from Jesus, our loving Savior. So we shouldn’t be surprised that we suffer. We should expect it.

Poor Job described it so well “my eyes will never see joy”(Job 7:7).

We need not look far to stare suffering in the eye, and many times we only need a mirror. Suffering is a part of this life.

We see suffering in the eyes of the mother of a stillborn, the father of an addict, the scared abandoned child, the broken-hearted widow, the exhausted young mother, and the depressed single father. The eyes of the undisclosed addict, the wounded adulteress, the rejected hungry beggar, and the scoffed at Christian all tell a different story. The eyes of the tormented of obsessive thoughts, the pregnant teenager, the nursing home ridden elder, the stunned family of a house fire, and the cancer patient all mirror a similarity. The eyes of the worried mother, the misunderstood son, the secret porn addict, the emotional teenager, the diabetic, the lonely husband, and the pain-ridden elderly all have suffering in common. All of us, every single one has some sort of suffering.      

Something that has always been a place of comfort to me is to offer this suffering to Jesus. This mystical way of willingly offering our suffering is to share in the suffering of our Lord. We must carry our own crosses in this life. It’s ok if we stumble under the weight; our own Lord stumbled under his cross. Much redemption comes from suffering. The saints loved suffering.

They have left us with many writings to encourage us on this journey:

It is You Jesus, stretched out on the cross, who gives me strength and are always close to the suffering soul. Creatures will abandon a person in his suffering, but You, O Lord are faithful. (1508) – St. Faustina

When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly. – St. Sebastian Valfre

Trials are sent to some so as to take away past sins, to others so as to eradicate sins now being committed, and to yet others so as to forestall sins which may be committed in the future. These are distinct from the trials that arise in order to test men in the way that Job was tested. – St. Maximos the Confessor

In suffering love and in loving, suffer! – Blessed Maria Lopez of Jesus

We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials. – St. Teresa of Avila

We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God. – Saint Vincent de Paul

He longs to give us a magnificent reward. He knows that suffering is the only means of preparing us to know Him as He knows Himself, and to become ourselves divine. – St. Therese of Lisieux

We Find Suffering in Scripture

2 Corinthians 1:5 – For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow into our lives; so too does the encouragement we receive through Christ.

Philippians 3:8-10 – Yes, I will go further: because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything else as loss. For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them all as filth if only I can gain Christ and be given a place in him, with the uprightness I have gained not from the Law, but through faith in Christ, an uprightness from God, based on faith, that I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being moulded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – Wherefore, so that I should not get above myself, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to batter me and prevent me from getting above myself. About this, I have three times pleaded with the Lord that it might leave me; but he has answered me, ‘My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.’It is, then, about my weaknesses that I am happiest of all to boast, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me; and that is why I am glad of weaknesses, insults, constraints, persecutions, and distress for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.

Romans 2:3 – 5 Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

1 Peter 5 – Keep sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that it is the same kind of suffering that the community of your brothers throughout the world is undergoing. You will have to suffer only for a little while: the God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will restore you, he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts forever and ever. Amen.

It is easier to look back on suffering than to walk through it. It is without a doubt where we grow and change. It is without a doubt a part of every human in this walk of life. It is in moments of raw suffering that we are able to put these scripture passages and saintly words into action. It is in times when we hurt that we are becoming more like Christ. We are learning to pull ourselves through the suffering and are better able to lend a hand to help others through the suffering.

Jesus also said, “but be courageous, I have conquered the world.” So we have hope in our suffering. We should expect it, but we will not be defeated by it.

Job’s life was transformed into something wonderful that stands as a testament to suffering for all of us.

We have the loving option to reach to our loving Jesus. We have the option to let His grace shine on us. We have the option to let this suffering change us and help us to be more Christ-like.  

Today we will suffer, but tomorrow we look with hope to be with our loving Lord.

So today, let us suffer well.  

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Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year Martina

There Is Suffering and Then There Is SUFFERING

Lent starts next Wednesday and one thing I’ve been reflecting upon has been suffering in my own life. 

And why not? 

We welcomed baby Emmie in January. If I had to do a breakdown of suffering, I’d say there are two kinds I’ve recently experienced an overlap – the kind you expect and go in knowing there will be discomfort and pain – you can even ask people ahead of time for their intentions so you can reflect and pray with them, and then there is out-of-left-field suffering.

Adjusting to a new baby and the demands of her schedule on our family were totally anticipated and expected suffering – I would say a joyful suffering because she is our seventh baby this side of heaven, after three consecutive losses in 2014, 2015, & 2016. I expected the sleepless nights, the hormone fluctuations, physically recovering from SPD from pregnancy as well as labor recovery.

What I didn’t expect was the normal new baby adjustments to be compounded by a cascade {more like the dam burst!} of illnesses. One day before Emmie was two weeks old, our nine year old son came in to show me his “spots.” We’ve had chickenpox go through the house before, but it had been his lifetime ago that we’d dealt with it. Four kids have been born since it went through the house…and this time with a BRAND new baby. 

To say I was freaking out was an understatement. 

We made the decision to quarantine our children, opting to keep our four year old from preschool though he had the all-clear from the pediatrician, until the incubation period had passed. 

While this all unfolded, cluster feeding went on and, I imagine the entire first floor of my house resembled something out of Lord of the Flies. Too worried about potentially transferring germs from my kids to my own clothes, I did not engage my other children in affection – my primary concern was Emmie and making sure she did not come in contact with the chickenpox. 

What started out as normal stress and suffering of having a newborn soon turned into the unknown, when-is-it-going-to-strike-next kind of suffering – a languishing that stretched me so far, I thought I would snap. I was sleep deprived, still in great pain from SPD from my pregnancy, cluster-feeding an insatiable newborn, and quite literally unable to leave my bedroom for those reasons.

After chickenpox entered the house, we would soon find ourselves at children’s urgent care because of an ill-timed newborn rash that popped up. Not normally one to panic over illness as a mom, this sent me because it came on so suddenly. Emmie was barely two weeks old and I wasn’t going to take a chance. 

Chickenpox sends me, I won’t lie.

NEXT, I kid you not, the FLU entered our home. Our oldest son went on the coveted annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference for high schoolers in Waco and thought it would be a lovely gesture to bring home germies – yay.

One by one, family members fell like a sack of bricks.

Bottles and bottles of vitamin C and D consumed.

Thermometers beeping all day long.

Orders placed to Prime Now because there was no way to get medicine

and chicken soup to our house otherwise.  

Lysol parades.

Elderberry syrup to the rescue.

Cough drops popped like candy.

Air thick with illness.

I prayed I wouldn’t get sick. But I succumbed. Another unexpected trip to Urgent Care during the Super Bowl confirmed I had the flu. 

Apart from seasonal allergies, I never get sick. All I could do was take comfort in knowing that nursing Emmie would provide the antibodies to hopefully prevent her from getting sick. This poor girl had been restricted to our room and now *I* had the flu*.

So, what’s the difference between anticipated suffering and the kind of hardship you never saw coming? Well, if you’re like me and let the illusion of control guide your life {you know – you like to plan things, make sure there’s a plan in place even in the unexpected because it’s what helps you power through those challenges}, you know that it’s largely the response to the suffering and ultimately the surrender. When you don’t see it coming, it changes how you respond.

I had nine months to mentally prepare for the suffering of labor.

I had nine seconds to mentally prepare for chickenpox and its effects on the baby.

Last year {and even the year before that} we found ourselves in this same kind of juxtaposition of suffering, an anticipated and confirmed miscarriage on the same day our son broke his ankle that required surgery. Maybe God is calling us to ponder these sufferings prior to and during Lent so that we have no choice but to completely surrender and rely on Him.

SOUND OFF

How do YOU respond to suffering of either kind? 

*We are now four weeks from the original chickenpox breakout, and the update is that Emmie did not get chickenpox or the flu, thanks be to God!

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Communion Confession Emily Fasting Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Prayer Sacraments Spiritual Growth

Groundhog Day

It’s February 2nd… again.

Remember that fabulous Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell movie? Bill Murray’s character repeatedly wakes up to find he is reliving the same day over… and over… and over. It takes a while, but over the course of the movie he slowly improves day after day by loving and serving others. Only when his efforts have become perfect does he finally escape the crazy time loop. It sounds rather nightmarish to me…

You know those moments in your life when you constantly re-live  certain past events in your mind… playing them over and over? Wishing sometimes you had just responded differently? It’s painful – like a burning in your chest – knowing that your words or actions (or lack of words or actions) negatively impacted a situation. I wonder if that’s like the “fire” of purgatory? But what happens when it’s not past events, but daily turmoils, and you have to continue to carry on through what seems to be a torturous existence? You know God has led you to the desert – and it feels like He’s just forgotten about you. 40 days seem to come and go, but the burdens seem endless.  That’s when patience has to turn into perseverance.

Patience is passive waiting.  It’s a rather fine character trait, but it’s not necessarily one that gets us anywhere. Perseverance , on the other hand, is a very active word.  It requires effort, sweat, blood, and tears.

We don’t passively work our way through this world that’s filled with sin… we drag our feet through the mud, and it’s not always pretty or easy.

The Old Testament’s book of Job has become a recent favorite of mine. Discerning the purpose of suffering in our lives is an age-old mystery. There is no table of contents that we can turn to in our lives and discover how many more chapters are left. We must wade through the seemingly endless daily struggles. We must – there is no alternative. Like Job, we cannot be tempted to give in and sin. One day we’ll wake up to find the music has finally changed. Prayers are often answered in very mysterious ways. In the meantime, we trudge on.

There are ways to ease our path – through prayer and fasting and giving of ourselves when we least desire to do so. What are your favorite ways to stay close to God in times of perseverance?

I think the Sacraments are the greatest gifts God gives us. Cleansing our souls in reconciliation and receiving the Eucharist – the very BODY of Christ, the ultimate sufferer… what more could we ask for?!?