I was listening to The Comforter today on EWTN and it caught my attention when I heard this, St. Augustine said " There are no burdens too heavy for a loving heart."
How can we be joyful when we are suffering was a question Fr. Andrew asked. Good question... because I know we're supposed to be joyful even amidst our suffering yet, to be honest it's a burden to do so. I think back to times in my life when I suffered and a couple of instances come immediately to mind. First, the illness and death of my mother whom I was very close too. I did NOT feel joyful during this time and even resented God for taking her from me.
I know, that's bad to admit here but it's true.
The second time I experienced real suffering was when my RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) was in a horrible flare up, I was pregnant with my son, newly married, in debt, and dependent on my health insurance at work. I went days where I physically couldn't lay down, get dressed, open the medicine cabinet door, let alone take the cap off the toothpaste, I couldn't get into my car, once I was able to get in, I couldn't reach to close the door...etc. Every movement was excruciating pain.
Many of my joints flared up at the same time and I was MISERABLE. No joy here in this suffering. In fact, I was in despair and at the height of it, knowing I was pregnant, prayed to God to help me or end my life. I never considered hurting myself or my baby but I wanted God to do SOMETHING!
My OB doctor didn't want me to take anything and advised me to be on bed rest. I practically shouted at her "I can't lay down! My shoulders, neck and back feel like sharp knives are cutting into me." Trying to sleep while sitting wasn't any better. The only comfortable position was standing up but by then my knees and ankles hurt.
Finally, my prayer was answered and I was referred to a Rheumatologist who diagnosed me with RA. She gave me a prescription for Prednisone and after 2 days of a very low dose, I was able to move freely again.
That was pure joy! Both my RA and OB doctor assured me that the low dose wouldn't affect my baby and it didn't. Thank God!
So, back to my original question of feeling joy while suffering? I've done a very poor job at it... I admit it. When the grief of my mother's illness was new and I when I was in the beginning stages of RA, I was a dutiful Christian and offered up my pain and suffering. When my mother died and when I was in a full flare up, I failed miserably at offering up this suffering. I wanted it to stop. I prayed, begged, pleaded, whined, yelled...etc. You get the picture.
Fr. Andrew went on to say in order to experience joy while suffering, one could have done so if the motive was love. If I meant to give glory and praise to God or if I wanted to obtain graces. Another motive was the reward of eternal life or my own sanctification. So, did I not love God enough?
When the going got tough, I failed horribly and my motive was not love, it was desperation.
Here are some verses he offered to reflect on suffering and joy:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refines by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1: 6-9
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined then you are illegitimate children and not true sons ... God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12: 7-11
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