Hope in the midst of Suffering
The modern world doesn’t know how to suffer.
I say that being someone who is learning how to suffer better in a time where it’s really tough to do anything but.
We lose people, things, jobs, relationships, and so on and so forth and it’s almost like our brain is trained to spiral from that into deeper and darker places. We begin losing hope, worrying about losing other things that we hold important. We cling a little tighter to the things within our grasp.
We lose a job, and we cling onto the money that we have. Maybe we stop giving it to the homeless, or to a charity we used to? We lose a friendship, and we’re suddenly embittered against that person – even just a little. It makes us question our other friendships, whether they’re strong enough to last through whatever caused the previous end, and we withhold parts of ourselves from those around us to guard ourselves. We lose a loved one, and we begin to question God on the why of it all. Why is their pain? Why does he let people suffer if he loves us so much?
We all know the age old answer to that one – that sin entered the world, and along came with it all of the bad things that happen. God wanted perfection for us, so he sent his Son to suffer and die with us to open wide the gates of heaven for all that God loved. His plan is a perfect life eternal. That is the message of hope in the Bible.
But yet, we still suffer poorly – knowing that God indeed has this plan for us. Maybe it’s because everything beyond this particular moment is a mystery to us, and heaven being an even bigger mystery.
My grandfather suffered greatly in the last few years of his life. His pain was daily and he was in and out of the hospital pretty regularly. It wasn’t a surprise when he passed – but the grief I felt was heavy. There was a hopelessness in it that I was ashamed to admit, but God planned to show me the beauty unfolded, even in death.
On the two-year anniversary of losing my grandfather, I found myself at Star of the Sea in San Francisco. It was a Tuesday – the night that the young adult group met for adoration and the rosary. I’d come for some consolation in Jesus, as my grief was still pretty abundant at that time.
We prayed through the Joyful mysteries of the rosary, and at the fourth – the presentation at the temple – I felt called to put my grandfather in the shoes of Simeon. It was in finishing the decade that I realized that my grandfather was in Heaven.
It dawned on me that for two years, I’d been holding onto this deep fear that my grandfather hadn’t made it there. That he’d been suffering so much that it had embittered him, made him hopeless. It was only in recent months that I learned that he’d actually asked for the anointing of the sick before passing.
Suffering comes. Grief comes. We must not let it embitter us so poorly towards the mercy of God that we cannot one day say as Simeon did:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The modern world is going to tell you messages of hopelessness because a lot of the day-to-day living within the world is full of joyless and hopeless “to-dos.” Devoid of Jesus, devoid of the hope for eternal life, the pains of living a daily life can seem to be just pains. But because of God’s great love for us and his Son’s suffering on the cross, suffering is just another rung on a ladder to heaven.
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