Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finding Meaning in Suffering - Part II

We stumble when we try to reconcile suffering with a loving God.  It just does not make sense to us.  We cannot understand how our comfort isn't more important to Someone who loves us. Those who have gone before us have tried to help us along...

 "The Infinitely Holy cannot cease to hate evil.  He tolerates it, nevertheless, in order not to deprive man of the use of his liberty."  Rev. Lehodey, Holy Abandonment

"Because God did not make evil, and the devil's villainy introduced it, God postponed vengeance so that the devil could be overcome by those very persons whom he had deceived."  St. Ambrose

"God judged it preferable to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist."  St. Augustine

"Prosperity has attractions which charm the senses and lull the reason to sleep.  It imperceptibly brings about in us such a change of disposition that we begin to attach ourselves to the gifts and to forget the Giver."  St. Francis de Sales

The problem is that we are nearsighted when it comes to eternity.  We simply lack the Big, big, big picture.   If God's primary concern for us was our comfort, we would likely never get to Heaven.  We would be too comfortable to go there willingly, and He doesn't drag people.

After examining cases of tremendous suffering (Genocide in Rwanda and individual lives chalk-full of suffering - Job, Blessed Margaret of Castello, holocaust survivors), we learned that we especially struggle when suffering seems unlinked to any personal sin.  Innocent suffering.  In fact, they didn't even believe in it in the Old Testament.  All suffering was seen as direct punishment for sin, which is why Job was such an enigma to his friends.  After considering many things, it all boils down to two questions.  Is a life of suffering a life worth living?  Can a loving God allow and approve it? 

If God is a God of love and mercy, doesn't that require that He give us every opportunity to draw close to Himself?  To obtain eternal salvation?  Isn't everything secondary to that very secondary?

"Rejoice in your trials; they are setting you free from the bonds of slavery to sin...All sin must be purified from the soul before a soul can stand before the throne of God in Heaven...Do not fight the cross, rather accept it as the glory it truly is...Fear nothing that unites you to Me, such as your trials and crosses, rather fear only that which separates you from Me, such as pleasures and indulgences of the flesh.  Pray for strength and courage to carry your crosses, not to have them taken away when they are your means of purification or sanctification.  Although the mercy of God indeed includes the cures of many afflictions, it is only in those cases where I deem it unnecessary for their salvation to carry that particular cross.  If a cross or trial is of great spiritual value, I will not remove it, and you should never wish that it were, for it may be the means of salvation of many, not only the individual soul."  The Christ Child in The Apostolate for Holy Motherhood

"If you try to find rest in this world, how will you ever reach that rest which is life everlasting?  It is not long hours of rest you must be prepared for here, but for long hours of patient endurance.  True peace must be sought not on earth, but in heaven; not in men, nor in other forms of creation, but in God alone...For the love of God you ought to endure with gladness all that befalls you:  toil and sorrow, temptations, afflictions, anxiety, want, weakness, injury and slander, rebuke, humiliation, shame, correction, and scorn.  All these things are aids to holiness; they test the man who has newly entered the service of Christ, and go to the making of his heavenly crown."  Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ

I'm so appreciative of these quotes, where it's all laid out.  I wonder how many years of conversation could be spared if we would reflect on these words, instead of trying to figure it out on the phone.  I can just imagine our holiness if the time spent beating X to death would have been used praying.  (I'm not saying we shouldn't talk to our friends, but it would be good if we talked to God more). 

For me, this post is a reminder that suffering is not incompatible with the plan of a loving God.  I am renewing my trust in God's plan for my life, no matter how crazy and nonsensical it may seem at times.   I am reminded that I stink at suffering.  If I am tired, I get snappy.  If I feel I've been treated unjustly, everybody knows it.  If I have too many things to do in too little time, my peace flies in a direction far away from me.  I'm a terrible actress.  I used to think that hiding my little hurts was being dishonest, and I felt justified in being transparent.  However, after reading and praying John Henry Newman's Learning Christ prayer, I know better.  (If you are not familiar, I have posted it previously under the title," I Love This Prayer!!  Maybe One Day I Can Live It!"). 

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the rain and Grandmas who can keep little boys with fevers.  Thank you for Woody Woodpecker and the time to finish this blog.  Thank you for teaching us about suffering and how You use it for good.  Thank you for the saints and for revealing Yourself to us through the ages.  Lord, I know I don't suffer well.  Please forgive me for all of the times I have caused others to suffer because of my lack of ability to keep my suffering to myself.  Please draw near to all of those suffering in ways big and small.  Help them to know that there is purpose in it, and bless them with the joy that comes with that knowledge.  As we begin our Lenten journey tomorrow, help us to take more comfort in knowing and loving You, and less on the comforts of this world.  Amen.

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