It’s late Friday night and the wait has been long and worrisome. We’ve been at the hospital since 4:00 pm waiting to see a doctor. Earlier in the day mom was packing dishes when she experienced a rushing pain in her head. She immediately felt faint and nauseous. She sat on her kitchen chair and called to tell me what happened. I dropped what I was doing and rushed over to find the feminine strength of my family, slumped in her chair, unable to hold her head up.
“Take me to emergency”, she said. As a woman who never wants anyone to make a fuss, her request to go to emergency said it all.
There was something seriously wrong with mom and we needed answers. Finally, after many more hours of waiting the answer came. Mom was afflicted with a bladder infection and labyrinthitis. Her recovery has been long and suffering and my heart is aching for her.
What is it all about? Is suffering a punishment from God or is it a consequence of making poor decisions in our life?
Suffering came into the world when humanity rejected the divine life that God desired to share with us. In choosing to open themselves to the promises of the serpent, Adam and Eve chose to close themselves off from the promises of God. This moment of choice brought suffering into the world, a painful suffering that humanity, and women in particular, experience deeply.
“To the woman He said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
Is Punishment Suffering?
Growing up I learned that suffering was a punishment. As a little girl when I did something bad I was punished and with that punishment came great suffering. Isn’t that the way most of us learned about suffering? Isn’t that the way we introduced suffering to our children?
Suffering itself is not a matter of choice, however, the way in which we live out suffering is. We can choose to suffer with love or to suffer without love. Learning this perspective was a major eye-opener for me.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us “that suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others.” CCC 1502, and “By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive passion.“ CCC 1505
Suffering Is What It Is.
It’s a consequence of a choice made by humanity’s first parents and there is nothing we can do about that. We can however choose to live out suffering the way holy women have throughout the ages.
“Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, and suffering are but a kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” St Teresa of Calcutta
“I want to suffer and even rejoice for love, for this is my way of scattering flowers. Never a flower shall I find but its petals shall be scattered for you; and all the while I will sing; yes, always sign, even when gathering roses in the midst of thorns; and the longer and sharper the thorns may be, the sweeter shall be my song!” St Therese of Lisieux
I read that John Cardinal O’Connor of New York once told a suffering woman, “Christ could have saved the world by his miracles, but he chose to save the world by his suffering.”1
Suffering is not something we desire for ourselves or for others. But when seen in the light of the suffering Lord we can live out suffering as a misunderstood gift from God that has the power to redeem the sins of the world. Leading from our feminine heart in this way we will set the world on fire with His love!