Monday, January 14, 2013

On Suffering

We spent Saturday at the doctor's with little A. Turns out, she has RSV. And, because of her history with RSV and pneumonia (she was hospitalized for three days last year due to a bout with these two illnesses), we and her doctor wanted to be very cautious. Poor A had to spend the day in the ER getting chest X-Rays and blood draws.

The blood draw was the worst because I had to hold her down. The last time she needed  a blood draw, I cried. She was so little and innocent, and it was physically painful for me to watch, let alone hold her down. This time, I didn't cry, but I held her so tight, it probably scared her more than the needle itself. I realized as I was trying to let her go afterward that I was holding her with so much tension, you would have thought I was the one getting blood taken.

And then, I thought, maybe this is what our Father in Heaven feels like when we suffer?

I really don't like to speculate on what God feels or does, because it feels like I am constructing Him in a very limited way. However, I think this particular meditation helps me to remember that when He allows suffering, it isn't because He is relishing in it. And it isn't that He necessarily wills our suffering, but that, as I did with little A, He hopes we will become better for it. A needed the blood test to make sure she didn't have bacteria in her blood--to keep her healthy. We sometimes need to suffer, even innocently, in order to restore or purify our relationship, our faith, in God.

Maybe, when RG died, the Lord just wanted to scoop me up and hold me, just as I wanted to hold little A until she stopped crying. And maybe, in His Wisdom, he knew I would be ok in time, just as I knew little A would be ok in a few days.

In the beginning, we weren't created to suffer; the Lord did not originally intend that we should feel pain in our hearts or bodies, and He didn't intend death. Thus, it is only due to Satan and sin that we feel these things and do these things. It is only due to Satan that we would need to be purified or to restore our faith in God's promises in the first place. Sometimes we suffer innocently; that is, we haven't personally sinned to cause our own suffering; innocent suffering can be due to the sins of others, or at the hands of death. However, in all cases, suffering comes through sin (Satan) or through death (original sin....still Satan).

Consequently, each time we suffer, whether innocently or not, we are presented with an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. It is always an opportunity to reject the evil that is the root cause of suffering.

Moreover, it is an opportunity to continually, in each moment, reject the Evil One, whose temptations are so great during times of suffering. Satan knows when we are hurting, and uses those times of vulnerability to tell us the same lie he told Adam and Eve: "God does not really love you, and you can't really trust Him."

Just look at Job. In the book of Job, we are allowed such insights into God's ways of interacting with us and His ways of loving us. Job also teaches us to remember the faithfulness of God, and how much He entrusts to the righteous. As far as I'm concerned, the book of Job is a testament to God's love for us in the face of the devil's lies.

And so, even in times of fear, such as now, I must trust in the Lord. Writing it here helps me to make it true. I must trust in His compassion, in His Love for me; I must trust that the remedy for suffering and fear is closeness with Him.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

I know that you can do all things,

     and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
     things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth,
     but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore I disown what I have said,
    and repent in dust and ashes.


  1. This brought tears to my eyes...I have never thought of it that way, but I bet you are right! I know He hurts when we hurt. What a beautiful reflection. Hope A gets better soon!!

  2. This is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thought-provoking! Thank you! It brought to mind a favorite quote of mine, from a Michael O'Brien book (paraphrasing here): "On the last day, we'll look back at all our suffering on earth as the cries of a newborn child who, grasping nothing of his existence, hungered only for milk." ....always makes me speechless. I do find it helpful to think of the bigger picture during times of suffering, and I love your image of God as Father whose heart suffers with us (in some mysterious, theologically accurate way =)) and who wants to hold us when we cry. Beautiful!

  4. Absolutely beautiful. One of the things that gives me the most comfort is to know that God hurts when I hurt, that He didn't will this for my life and knows that one day, it will all be OK. One way or the other.


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