Just as many books written throughout history, the Bible recounts to us the depths of two realities: life and suffering. The scriptures are not limited to this though. What we discover in these pages is how God Himself comes in contact with us in life and suffering. Each person of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has a particular encounter with us in times of physical, emotional, and mental suffering which brings us into the loving relationship that our hearts need and desire.
Scripture reveals how the Father has taught us to come to Him as we are, particularly through the psalms. Much of the Word of God we consider to be what God the Father wants to communicate to us, His children. However, what we see in the psalms are examples of how God desires us to speak with Him. Interestingly enough, the writers of these psalms do not hold back anything. They are very blunt with the expression of their emotions, complaints, fears, needs and desires.
My Lord, my deepest yearning is before you; my groaning is not hidden from you. My heart shudders, my strength forsakes me; the very light of my eyes has failed. Friends and companions shun my disease; my neighbors stand far off (Ps. 38: 10-12).
Why is it that the ones who wrote the psalms can complain like this without shame or fear of sinning? It is simply because they are talking to God. How often, when in suffering, do we express our bitterness, sadness and anger to others or do we let things mull inside our thoughts without turning it over to God the Father? One who knows they are a son/daughter knows that their Father can take in the complaints, rebellion and frustration. It is like He is saying to us, “Get it out! Tell me about it! I am here no matter what.” Our relationship with the Father deepens with our sincerity and we discover that in our suffering we are not alone. Someone is listening.
The Gospel authors write about God the Son and how He “went throughout Galilee curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (Matthew 4: 23). He was attentive to anyone who passed Him by. In this He reveals the heart of the Father, the one who seeks out the lost sheep. He touched hearts in places where they were wounded, He touched the infirm body of man where he was in pain, and He spoke truth where the enemy had sown lies. It is often the lies that we believe while suffering that become the paths that lead to darkness and even deeper suffering. These need to be combated with truth, which comes from Christ and His Word. For instance, if one is tempted to believe that he/she is not deserving of love and care or that their suffering is insignificant compared to all the suffering going on in the world, then it is important to listen to the truth of Christ who says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10: 29-31).
In the revelation of the Trinity, we also know God the Holy Spirit is present in our suffering. “In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness,” St. Paul says, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” (Romans 8: 26). Indeed, the Holy Spirit thus helps us to pray honestly to the Father as those who prayed in the psalms. He also leads the Church through giving various charisms and gifts to its members for the benefit of the community, including gifts of healing (1 Corinthians 12: 9). We see gifts of healing for ailments of the body through our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics. God performs healings today though the power of His Spirit working in these men and women. When we are suffering from mental and psychological illnesses, we experience help and healing from therapists, psychiatrists, and social workers. Unfortunately, these more hidden sufferings can carry with them the burden of shame and social taboos. It is important to remember that our suffering should never be judged, but rather be gently brought to the light so that no one is ever alone in their suffering and we are all helped to safeguard and cultivate the gift of life.
In the end, it is the gift of life at the center of this whole topic of suffering. In some way, every psalm prayed expresses to the Father the cry for protection of this gift that He gave us in creating us. Our bodies know that they were not created for death, but rather for eternal life. The Son came to heal, redeem and resurrect our life that became broken, wounded and burdened by suffering and sin. It is then His Spirit that He sent to guide our life towards love found in the Father and Son and in the members of Christ’s Church. Life is intrinsically connected to suffering through the effect of sin, but the good news is that in our suffering we are intrinsically connected to God and can go deeper and deeper into communion with Him.
- The Father desires to be in relationship with you. Write your own psalm to express your experience of suffering. Don’t be afraid to share with Him your emotions, complaints, fears, needs and desires.
- Jesus, the Son, desires to heal you and speak truth to you. What are some of the lies of the enemy that you are tempted to believe? Consider what truths Jesus would speak to your heart. It is usually the opposite of what the lie communicates to you.
- The Holy Spirit assists us in our weakness. Take time to consider if you are open to the Holy Spirit’s aid that comes through others who can use their gifts to help you in a difficult time.
This month’s meditation is by Sr. Tatum McWhirter, AVI.