The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18 ~
In life, we are given many challenges. We experience dark nights and it often seems that we will never again, see the light. As Catholics, we are taught that suffering is a result of free will and we are given a great gift in that our suffering, when offered to Our Lord, is redemptive.
“Human suffering has reached its culmination in the passion of Christ. And at the same time it has entered into a completely new dimension and a new order: it has been linked to love, … to that love which creates good, drawing it out by means of suffering, just as the supreme good of the Redemption of the world was drawn from the cross of Christ, and from that cross constantly takes its beginning. The cross of Christ has become a source from which flow rivers of living water” ~Saint John Paul II~
We know this. We know that suffering is redemptive but it is difficult to wrap our heads around it when we, or our loved ones, are suffering.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. ~ Psalm 34: 19 ~
Many are the afflictions. When we think of suffering, it is usually physical suffering that comes to mind and rightfully so. One of the most difficult challenges we face is seeing someone we love suffer and not be able to do anything about it. We watch, doing the best we can to help but we are helpless. We may even be willing to take the pain on to ourselves but ultimately, we know that we are powerless. When my mother lay dying in a hospital bed, my brother looked at her and said, “I wish I could change places with her.” Selfless love! At that moment, I was so dazed that I didn’t quite understand, but I learned. Some years later, my brother’s words rang loudly through my mind as I watched a beloved friend go from one illness to another. Knowing what this person was experiencing and believing that his worth on this earth was far greater than mine, I asked God to give his sufferings to me. As I look back, I think that God must have chuckled at that, thinking, “You, My child, could not handle his pain.” We love. We love so deeply that we are willing to take on another’s pain. But it doesn’t work that way, does it?
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” ~Saint Mother Teresa~
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all. ~Psalm 34: 19~
Suffering comes in many ways. It is never pretty and we cannot compare the degree of one person’s pain to another’s. It is never deserved; at least not in the sense of what some people like to refer to as karma. It is true that there are times when we bring suffering to ourselves; times like not walking away from a hurtful person before he breaks our hearts, but we all make poor choices at one time or another.
We cannot escape suffering. Our lives are peaks and valleys and we often find ourselves being tossed from one to the other. I believe that each suffering we are given has been given to us as a lesson. When we are in the darkness, we cannot see that. We don’t want to see that. But when we come out of the blackness and re-enter the light, if we are honest and if we are willing to see it, we must admit that we have come through wiser and one step closer to God.
The late Leonard Cohen, in his song titled, Anthem, wrote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Are we fighting the light or are we ready to bathe in its warmth?
Where is God when we need Him?
We always need God and He is always with us but we don’t always feel Him. God never separates Himself from us. He may walk silently beside us but He never leaves.
“For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.” ~Psalm 56:13~
Would you have Carried His Cross?
Along the way, they found a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. ~Matthew 27:32~
Do you ever wonder if you would have taken on His cross? A man you did not know. A man who was hated and ridiculed. Would you have helped Him? Ponder this. I often wonder if I would have helped. I hope I would have willingly taken on the cross Our Lord carried but I cannot honestly say I would have. I don’t know. Do you?
I believe that any mother who is beside her suffering child would willingly take on the pain. I know that Mary would have taken on her Son’s sufferings; each and every aspect of it if she could have, but our beautiful Mary knew she was not created for this reason. She did, however, suffer with Him. It has been said that, because she was so pure, she felt joy and suffering more deeply than any person ever has or ever will. So, consider that as each nail was driven into His hands, her hands felt the same pain. Her shoulders bore the weight of His cross and her head felt the pain of each thorn as it pierced His head.
“But he did not exercise this compassion with Mary, who, God wished to be the queen of dolors, and in all things like his son, and to see always before her eyes, and to suffer continually the passion and death of her beloved Jesus.” ~Saint Alphonsus Ligouri~
Suffering can be physical. It can be spiritual or psychological . It can be overwhelming uncertainty, fear, loneliness, anxiety or anger. Suffering can be triggered by loss, betrayal, abandonment, lack, and uncertainty. As we go through our dark nights, loved ones often walk beside us, wanting to take our darkness away. We can find comfort in knowing that we are loved in this way, or we can turn our backs on those who love us and choose to suffer alone. When this is our choice, we are shutting out people who love us and this causes suffering for them.
“Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.” ~Venerable Fulton J. Sheen~
The Lord Protects the Unwary
I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. ~Psalm 116: 3-7~
I must admit that I have questioned. I have been angry. But I have always come back to the realization that I cannot now, or ever, know the mind of God. What I do know is that He is love, pure love and only He, in His infinite wisdom, knows what or why. So we have the choice to trust or not. Trust can be challenging but not trusting adds to our pain. I would rather touch a thread from the hem of His robe than wear a velvet coat of my own.
“As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have.” ~Saint Madeline Sophie Barat~
“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…” ~Saint Faustina~