Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making Sense of Human Suffering

At Adoration today, on the Feast of Divine Mercy, I stumbled upon a passage in Michael Casey's book Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer. As I read the passage, I felt it as a confirmation of what I've been sensing for a while now: the need to embrace not only the joys we experience in this life, but also the suffering. Granted, my Catholic education has always told me that, but only after much reflection on the purpose that suffering has served in my life have I begun to internalize that teaching. Much in the way that Jesus did during his passion and death on the Cross, the embrace of grief in our lives has the potential for much spiritual fruit...
The effects of suffering are not limited to its immediate consequences. It has an impact on life as a while. Sometimes one needs it in order to grow more tender. As we reap our own harvest of grief, it is hard not to learn compassion. Our love for others is purified: the pain we have experienced makes us less and less willing to hurt anyone else. We become more human.

When life is very difficult, people sometimes lay hold of resources that they never knew they had. The easy-going, self-centered exterior is cast off and a person of heroic stature emerges. Under pressure, the one who has lain dormant these many years, tyrannized by an outward image bearing little resemblance to what was within. Suffering causes the mirror to crack. As the pieces fall away, we see what is hidden behind.

In the culture of the industrialized Western world, it is difficult to accept suffering. We are led to expect that it should not occur. If we lack acceptance or love or self-confidence, perhaps some consumer item will redeem the situation. Like some vast pharmacy, our technological society offers a remedy for almost every ailment. We come to believe it is not right to experience pain. We are encouraged to block it out, to forget our misery, to act "normally." Millions of people walk around pretending to be "normal."

As human beings we are vulnerable. The surest mark of adulthood is the capacity to accept that vulnerability in oneself, and in those one loves.
. . . 
By the action of the Holy Spirit what is worst in us can give rise to what is best. This is an alchemy we do not comprehend and can never anticipate, no matter how often it happens. God transforms human limitation into something beautiful, taking what is of least value and ennobling it from within. This is properly the work of God. ... Our sadnesses and pain may not seem worth much, but they are fuel the Holy Spirit kindles into love.

Longing for God,

The Catholic Wife

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