I met Barbara Shoeneberger through the blogosphere, as we both participate in a weekly Catholic carnival. She has approached her chronic health issues with a beautiful attitude of faith. I hope her thoughts today will illuminate the sufferings in your lives as well.
Nobody gets through this life without mourning. Mourning implies loss of something we value. Whether it is a dear one, a body part, a capability diminished or extinguished by age, infirmity, or accident; a job, financial security, or innocence; loss can pierce the heart, grind away the stomach, or leave one in a state of emotional and physical collapse. With loss of what we value comes suffering unique to each person in expression and duration.
Often we are tempted to question God when suffering deeply: “Why me?” That is our first mistake, albeit a natural one. God permits us to suffer for reasons we cannot always see at the time, but by faith we know that He only wills our good. In fact, one of the best ways to suffer well and eventually joyfully, is to seek an ever deepening faith in God. “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Next we can begin to look for God’s blessings in the heart of our misery. This is essential to avoid getting stuck in suffering. The finishing phrase of this Beatitude: “…for they shall be comforted,” contains the key. The Greek word for “comforted” is the same origin for the word “Comforter” that Jesus uses in John 14:26 when he tells the apostles, ” But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things…”.
When we are mourning or suffering, our Father sends us the Holy Spirit to teach us and to show us that He is with us. The Holy Spirit not only enters into the receptive heart Himself, but He comes also by others to help us find peace. We are comforted in our anguish by kind words and sometimes the simple silent being of a friend sitting with us, touching our hands, fixing a meal or doing a chore we can’t do. He puts new people and information into our lives to help us and show us ways to be in a changed existence. Often we describe these people as “Godsends” and indeed they are.
Suffering with joy is my motto for the rest of my life. When we pray “Thy will be done” in the Our Father we are affirming our submission to the good that God desires to do for us. I am joyful in suffering because I have seen how God is reshaping me, redirecting my life, changing my focus from myself to Him. That doesn’t mean that I am not in pain or that I don’t have moments of doubt or panic or rebellion or that I won’t have to start all over again at times because I’ve started to focus on myself and my misery. I just know now that He has a purpose for me, that I am to be faithful to that purpose, that I am not alone, and that I must take life one day at a time. It is enough for me.
O Lord, thank you for the hardship in my life. Thank you for the people you have sent to help me in my difficulties. Thank you for helping me grow in faith, hope, and charity, and for making it possible for me to help others. Please teach me what You want me to know. Give me the grace to understand what You want from me and the strength to do it. Give me submission of heart and will to execute Your plans for me for the good of all.
Barb Schoeneberger blogs at Suffering with Joy. She serves on the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval committee, provides copy editing and proofreading services to writers, and is working on a book on sin.