Reflections on Suffering

Posted: January 22, 2020 in difficulty
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When we suffer or when we are confused about what to do, despite the origin, we might learn something about ourselves, about our world. This may take some time. It may not be head knowledge. It may be body knowledge. 

“The right thing to do when you are in moments of suffering is to stand erect in the suffering. Wait. See what it has to teach you. Understand that your suffering is a task that, if handled correctly, with the help of others, will lead to enlargement, not diminishment. The valley is where we shed the old self so the new self can emerge. There are no shortcuts. There’s just the same eternal three-step process that the poets have described from time eternal: from suffering to wisdom to service. Dying to the old self, cleansing in the emptiness, resurrecting in the new.” 

 David Brooks, The Second Mountain

Lost we might have an opportunity to be found, and barriers may call from us new things.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” 

Wendell Berry “Our Real Work”

Grounding ourselves in reality, accepting our lives as led, as acceptable, as meaningful just as they are, this is a way to down regulate from our anxieties and to come to peace with what was, is and will be.

“Now, finally, I really had lost all desire for change, every last twinge of the notion that I ought to get somewhere or make something of myself. I was what I was. “I will stand like a tree,” I thought, “and be in myself as I am.” And the things of Port William seemed to stand around me, in themselves as they were.”

Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow

We are not alone in our pain and in our identity search, in those times when we stand beyond desire, ego and passion for more. Christ is present where our lack is. It is a kind of presence we aren’t used to, and so it may be hard to recognize. 

After the cross, we know that God is not watching human pain, nor apparently always stopping human pain, as much as God is found hanging with us alongside all human pain. Jesus’s ministry of healing and his death in solidarity with the crucified of history forever tell us that God is found wherever the pain is. This leaves God on both sides of every war; in sympathy with both the pain of the perpetrator and the pain of the victim; with the excluded, the tortured, the abandoned, and the oppressed since the beginning of time. I wonder if we even like that.

Richard Rohr (Mediations)

Such words don’t fix us, I know that, take away the pain, give immediate relief, but they point us where to go and what to do with our pain. My prayer for you is that you enlarge even as you might feel like you are diminishing, my dear friends. And that you stand.

You do not stand alone. You stand with all who suffer. You stand, whether you feel it or not, with God himself.

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