It’s amazing how suffering makes you grow in a way that nothing else does. The more I grow, the more I see how much further I need to grow. Thankfully, God is patient with each of us on our journey, and He is there with us, offering mercy and grace every step of the way. We cannot do it alone, and we don’t have to do it alone.
Long-suffering is especially challenging. I’ve been in chronic pain with significant limitations for 16 ½ years now following wisdom teeth extraction that went terribly wrong and other major compounding factors that came along the way. That’s a post of its own, but I’m having to endure an unusual amount of suffering and loss. My life is nothing like I thought or hoped it would be at this point, but I have grown and am continuing to grow spiritually through this ordeal.
Over the years many people have suggested that I write. I have always felt the call to write but didn’t feel like God was telling me it was the right time until a few weeks ago when I was spending time in the Adoration Chapel. I didn’t understand why this was “the” time, but I started revisiting writing that I’ve done in the past and praying about what to share in a blog. Now with all of the chaos and uncertainty surrounding coronavirus, I understand better why God is asking this of me now.
My hope is that the lessons I have learned in the trenches of suffering will help others who are going through times of uncertainty and suffering now, be it from the impact of coronavirus or something else. God can bring good out of suffering, and He can even bring good out of a situation that is still bad (like mine). God is not limited by circumstances- how amazing is that! He doesn’t cause illness, but He can bring good out of it. Suffering has vastly changed my perspective, and I feel called to share what I’ve learned the hard way. I see things completely differently than I once did. It’s a bit unnerving to put the depth of my writing and experiences out there for the world to see, but I want to do everything in my power to allow God to bring good out of my situation, however He decides to do that.
The most frequent question people have asked me over the years is, “How do you still have your faith after everything you’ve been through and still have to endure?” My answer is always that my faith is the ONLY thing to keep me going through all of this and get me out of bed each morning. When everything else is stripped away, what else is left? Nothing, because everything in life is fleeting except for God! God is our only certainty. No event, thing, or even human relationship is steadfast like God is.
My understanding of that concept has grown in depth over the years. It started in the beginning of this illness when I was upset that I could not attend most events, so I shifted my focus to seeing friends. Then many of my friends didn’t stick around during this illness, and others went off to college and built new lives, as is normal. All the while I was pretty much housebound, so I would look forward to getting ice cream. (I mean, who doesn’t look forward to ice cream?!) But then came along dietary restrictions that didn’t allow me to indulge in ice cream anymore. I realized that I had been placing my joy mostly in things of this world, when really that place in my heart was meant for God alone. This isn’t to say that those other things are bad- some of them are even intended by God. Attending events can be a very good thing, and I’m sure Jesus loves ice cream! Support and visits from friends have been and still are so important during this trial, and God often comes to us through other people in the Body of Christ. God intends for us to support one another, and God created relationships so that we may have them with one another, but none of these other things belong in that center place of our hearts which only God can fill.
At the time that was a huge revelation for me, but I’ve had to grow much more in that arena as my suffering has persisted. As I continue to work to have Jesus first in my life, I see the importance of my complete and total surrender to God’s will, where I am attempting to pray about all the decisions I have to make and ask God what His will is of me in each circumstance. At first that seemed burdensome to me, but the more I’ve practiced it, the more freeing it feels to seek His will in everything. This required me to grow in trust that He wants what is good for me, and in faith that He is working in my life even when I can’t see it. I had to work through my anger toward God about my situation to even begin to grow in trust and in faith. Every day when I wake up, I ask God to show me what He wants me to do that day, but now I also ask Him what He wants to give to me, to show me, and to teach me that day. That simple prayer has been a game-changer for me these last few months. I find myself on the lookout for ways in which He is working in my life, and I find my understanding increasing as well.
This has not been easy. In fact, it has been quite challenging, but God is so loving and patient. Before this illness I thought I was in a good place spiritually because I went to church, prayed, and was involved in Catholic and Christian volunteer organizations. All of those things are good and vital, but I didn’t realize the degree to which I was “going through the motions” until rubber met the road with my health situation and I kept having to dig deeper. It’s much easier to have faith when things are going well than when things are challenging! In order to press on, I had to strengthen my relationship with Jesus by facing the really tough questions and actively seeking out more knowledge about my faith. I started small and added more as I could digest it, but overall I began reading more scripture and faith-based books, listening to additional homilies, and going for spiritual direction. No matter where we are on our spiritual journeys, there are many resources available, and we are not alone!
Life is often filled with trials, be it coronavirus or other challenges, and trials have an uncanny way of shifting our focus to the bigger picture. God is with us every step of the way though, even when we have a hard time feeling His presence. He is patiently waiting with open arms for each and every one of us to draw closer to Him. He doesn’t always shield us from suffering, but He will sustain us unceasingly, no matter the circumstances. God is greater than our trials, sufferings, and inconveniences, and He will bring good out of them in His way, in His time. That is truly something for which we can be thankful.
What is of utmost importance can’t be derailed by things out of our control. Our relationship to God and getting to heaven come first, and everything else pales in comparison to that. God is our certainty, our rock on which to lean. May we take comfort in God’s steadfast love and care for us during this time of change and uncertainty, and may the fruit of all of this be increased faith and deeper relationships with God!