For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Mark 10:27
When my heart is troubled I tell myself, “It’s ok, God can do anything he wants!” As I watch the events of the world unfold around me and I look at the number of folks hurting and suffering I find myself repeating that line often. One quick look at the news and it’s easy to see why folks are discouraged. No matter how much I’d like to make things better for everyone, I am not a wise or powerful woman who can change any of it. But I can, and will, pray about it and do my best to share God’s hope and love and joy in an attempt to keep those in my corner of the world grounded in this important truth that with God all things are possible. God is calling each of us to remember in times of trouble that if we look carefully, he gives us signs of His love and encouragement every day.
As long as God is in charge, the news will never be all bad, so powered by the hope in this verse, I set out to see what good things God was doing and I was able to fill my eyes, ears and heart with so much “good stuff”. All around me I noticed God’s signals that assured me it’s gonna be ok because of his infinite possibilities! At mass, I saw the adorable chubby cheeks of a little girl who found her voice. With each happy squeal I was reminded that babies are God’s sign of life. At a restaurant I saw a family with five little ones who screeched, giggled and wiggled and I smiled because their parents chose life. At the Secretary of State office I watched as a very patient, kind hearted 3 year old fed her baby sister dry cereal one piece at a time.
When I stopped for coffee, I noticed a table of men loud with laughter and energy sitting before their open Bibles discussing Gods word. At the market I watched a young man present an elderly lady he didn’t know a bouquet of flowers to make her day. In the airport I saw executives with laptops and spreadsheets begin an important meeting with prayer. As I looked with eyes wide open I saw Gods goodness and possibilities again and again. Sights and sounds that give witness to the“good” in this world. The happy giggles and delightful squeals and those who gathered to pray, visit, laugh and share in each other’s lives…that’s my signal that as long as we remember the words from Marks Gospel…we’ll be ok. We aren’t promised perfection, we are promised hope, mercy and love from the Father who created us. We have to remember that with God, all things won’t be perfect but they are most certainly possible!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit in prayer and make a list off all the things that trouble you. One by one ask God to handle each item and bring your heart hope and peace, knowing he will take care of them.
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