Suffering is something that’s been on my mind and heart a lot lately, especially since Grampy died and I started my internship. My heart has experienced real pain, whether it’s through my own sense of loss or through hearing about everything that my clients are struggling with.
I know that suffering is a huge question and I think we’ve each wrestled with it in one way or another. I’d like to share a little piece of what I’ve learned these past few weeks. Maybe it will help you as you grapple with this portion of the human experience.
A few years ago, my neighbor Pat died. I wrote my reaction to that here http://alwaysandineverything.blogspot.com/2012/07/its-my-party-and-ill-cry-if-i-want-to.html. What I didn’t share in that post was how I was learning to perceive suffering at that time. Here’s what I wrote: “Our lives are a constant journey of becoming closer to God. What if, while being pulled into God’s embrace, we’re being pulled away from chains? Jesus Christ suffered on the Cross. He suffered pain and humiliation, and He was innocent. What He did, He did out of love. He chose suffering, so we could be reunited with Him in Heaven. Suffering, then, instead of a separation, is an embrace. It’s proof that we’re moving closer to God.”
I also remember reading in the Bible how the widows and orphans are the ones close to God’s heart and how He always hears their cries. I kept thinking that if He loved them as much as He said He does, then why do innocent children get horribly abused and why do people hurt so much.
In sitting with my clients through their pain, I’ve had to start looking at it as a way to be closer to Jesus. For some unknown(but good) reason, Jesus is present in the pain but He still allows it to happen. It’s a ‘good’ reason because it’s God, and He is Goodness itself. And yes, there are many different points to be made about free will, etc, but I’m not gonna touch those; it’ll get too complicated. My point is that this idea of suffering as an embrace helped me to start being able to maybe wrap my head around the presence of Jesus in those moments. Since suffering is an inevitable part of the human experience (and it really is inevitable), then tying it to Jesus is the best thing we can do. Attributing meaning to it, even if it’s that God is present somewhere in the midst of it despite being unable to see Him or feel Him, allows hope to enter and start to shine its beautiful light. Hope always insists that life will get better. Allowing that little glimmer of light to enter your heart really opens the doors.
After I’d reached this point of Jesus embracing myself and my clients in our suffering and being present to us, I started to wonder if there was anything that I could possibly do to help ease the pain. There is an answer. Simply being with someone helps; listening to their story, letting them cry, providing whatever encouragement you can, all of these help produce hope, even if it’s unspoken. Next, I thought of Jesus on His walk to Calvary and His death on the cross. There were people who walked with Him. Simon, the Cyrenian, carried His cross with Him. The Bible doesn’t say if they talked or what happened aside from them struggling to bear it together. Two innocent men were forced to carry a burden that neither of them deserved. According to tradition, Veronica wiped Jesus’ face. Again, who knows if she said anything to Him or He to her, but she was there when He needed someone. I can picture her wiping off the blood and His tears of pain and exhaustion. She provided a brief moment of rest to Him.
The more I think about it, pray about it, read about it, and experience it, the more I’m realizing that suffering provides a lot of opportunities.
Suffering typically makes us cry out, looking for a reason and help to get through it. If the person is open, it affords an opportunity for God to say “I’m here!” It opens us up at our most vulnerable and broken places, where true, deep healing is needed. That’s where God enters and can provide comfort.
In my quest for answers, I found it helpful to read Salvifici Dolores (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html). While I haven’t come to any definite conclusions about suffering, I do know that it’s helping my heart to grow. I’ll be praying for you and that you can find some meaning in the midst of your suffering. It’s a mystery, but faith tells us that we don’t go through it alone. Jesus didn’t hold anything back when He died on Calvary; even His heart was pierced! Hopefully this is able to bring some comfort or at least remind you that there are answers to your questions, even if they’re unknown at the moment.
As you persevere through your pain, I pray that you become aware that you're being held close to Jesus' pierced heart. God bless!