What a precious gift suffering is.
I know that is a very odd thing to say, but I write this having been in bed for over a week, hardly able move, hardly able to think. I had just gotten over a bout of pneumonia, then I started feeling weird a week ago Saturday.
I was going to go to mass on Mother's Day with my children--no matter what--because that is my most heartfelt desire--to be with all my kids at mass. (I was just tired, I told myself.)
So, I pushed myself to attend mass on Mother's Day, I realized I was feeling too shaky to continue in the middle and so my husband and daughter and I went towards the car and I didn't quite make it. My legs went out and my husband had to carry me to the car.
For days, I have been too sick to even care what I looked like, what I ate or drank. In fact, I wondered if I was going to survive this sickness. No way did I have the strength to be taken to the emergency room and sit for hours awaiting a doctor, or drive myself to a doctor's office. Laying in bed at home, someone could have come in and burned the house down around me, and I would have maybe, with God's help, been able to make it down the stairs.
Strangely enough in this helpless and exhausting and miserable state, I have been lifting up everything to God and joining it with His sufferings (as St. Paul rejoiced in). The grace of relief has been slowly, slowly given to me. And now, only this morning have I felt the strength to write.
This has given me time to contemplate suffering. Something about this--now being a Catholic--has changed me, my way of thinking. There were moments I felt tempted to despair.
I don't fear death, I just hate the thought of going to a hospital and having lawsuit-oppressed doctors prescribe unnecessary and expensive lab tests based on government-imposed norms and then misdiagnosing me with some horrendous life-threatening disease just to find out months later I was actually fine. (Yep, happened twice with me!)
Then having my children worry about me. While my husband then has to take off work to sit and pat my hand as the nurse asks embarrassing questions. Dear God, please not that!
I had the choice of despairing or lifting my sufferings up to God. And the second is what I chose to do. And I heard the quiet, sweet voice of Him who has been my dearest friend whisper to me that He was going to give me joy in my sufferings. If I just asked.
I asked. Then, out of nowhere, heavenly enlightenment struck me as a thunderbolt.
What if, what if we have got this all wrong as humans?
You see, we do everything to avoid suffering. That is human nature and I am in no way saying that is wrong. Take an aspirin if you are in pain. I don't know that there is any spiritual value in pain you create on purpose. Maybe there is, but I am all for getting out of pain if there is no moral objection to it. What I am speaking of is the regular sufferings of living.
We avoid this because it is... painful. It makes you unable to get your work done. It makes you vulnerable and dependent on others. It is embarrassing. It can be expensive! And we feel as if suffering takes away our freedom. So we avoid it. We live life doing things to avoid pain.
And now I am expanding this suffering to mean a lot more than just physical pain. We avoid emotional and mental sufferings too. We often drink too much, seek out entertainment too much, eat too much, avoid certain people too much in order to avoid wounds.
So, what if God were to tell us that we gain strength, spiritual power, and wisdom in the very act of redemptive suffering? What if we were no longer afraid of suffering because we could lift it up to Christ and use it as a powerful weapon against the Devil? What would happen if a Christian could learn peace and joy in the midst of suffering?
Such as staying in a painful marriage.
Such as staying in a low-level job.
Such as getting better educated.
Such as working harder.
Such as controlling ones immoral sexual as well as other physical and emotional appetites?
What if we could endure not sinning, and experiencing the purgatorial-like burn with rejoicing?
I am not speaking of some Zen trance-like state or some dulled nihilism, nor Buddha's transcendent indifference. I mean we feel the pain and still experience joy and peace because we know He is using it for His will. It is redemptive!
Once we can learn joy in suffering we will have a freedom on a divine level. We will not live attempting to alleviate pain with bad choices. That is absolute freedom. Nothing even similar to it in the secular world.
No Constitutional Freedom can come anywhere near it. For this a freedom of the Spirit. God's freedom.
And this freedom is a gift of God's grace. All we have to do is ask for it. However, in my case, at least, I have had to ask for it many times and it doesn't come unless I ask for it. It is a learned grace. It has come with practice, but nonetheless, it is HIS victory, through His power. I can assure you that it is worth asking for this type of freedom. For it is eternal and brings you into His Divine will, giving you His Divine spiritual power. And it is miraculous.