A New Look At Suffering

I do not have a very high threshold for pain; in fact I am a wimp when it comes to pain and sickness.  I don’t know, maybe it is this low threshold or that I am a guy and as a common rule guys do not do sick well at all.  Last week it was my turn to be sick and I did not like it.

Friday night I had my first experience with a kidney stone.  I am not sure how many of you reading this have suffered through this extremely painful event, but I hope I never go through it again.  Not that having a kidney stone was on my bucket list but I added it and then crossed it right off, thanks be to God!

I am always looking for the moral of every story so as I was laying there in the hospital, writhing in pain, the moral of the story became all too clear.  I was looking for something to watch on the television in the emergency room when I happened upon the History Channels presentation of the Bible.  I joined in at the time of the arrest of Jesus by the guards from the Temple and His subsequent trail.  As I was laying there, feeling very sorry for myself, Jesus received the sentence of the forty lashes with the whip.  I was in pain, but my pain paled in comparison to what Jesus was going through.

As the program continued on, Jesus was forced to carry his cross and as my pain started to subside, the drugs were now taking affect; Jesus was nailed to the Cross without any pain medication at all.  As he cried out in agony as those nails pierced his flesh I felt pretty stupid for feeling the way that I was feeling.  But, was I being fair to myself?  In essence I was not.

Suffering and pain are all part of our life and come as a result of the fallen world that we live in.  There are three sources of suffering in this world: suffering from the persecution of others in body and soul, suffering from sickness and disease, and suffering in spirit because of the sins of this fallen world we live in.  When faced with suffering we have to choices on how to deal with it  – we can accept it and transforms our suffering into the way of salvation for ourselves and others or we can give in to our suffering and allow it to defeat us.

I believe one of the greatest examples of transforming suffering into salvation was Pope John Paul II.  His suffering was very public as the world watched him go from a very vibrant man full of life and energy to a man confined to a wheelchair and not able to speak yet he did not give up.  He could have resigned his office and gone off to a monastery somewhere and ended his life sheltered from the watchful eyes of the world, but he chose to teach the world about suffering and not giving up.  He truly transformed his suffering into salvation not only for himself but for the world.

We will never truly know the suffering of another person.  Some are able to hide it better than others but I would hazard to guess that most people are dealing with some sort of suffering each and every day.  Perhaps it is the suffering from sickness, perhaps it is suffering with grief, or perhaps it is the suffering of persecution and bullying that is all too prevalent in our society today.  Whatever that suffering is we have to choose to embrace it and transform it or to let it defeat us.

Jesus chose to take on our flesh and to suffer as we suffer to show us the way of salvation.  Sure, He could have chosen a different way but He chose to be born in the flesh and to die in the flesh, and our suffering became His suffering and because of that He will give us the strength we need to deal with our suffering when it comes.  The pain and suffering I felt in my brief stay in hospital this past week is nothing in comparison to what some of you are going through and I use it merely as an example, but each time we suffer, each time we are in spiritual, mental, or physical pain it brings us closer to those in the world who suffer and our spirits are joined together.

I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to thank the great folks at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge for their excellent care.  From the person who checked me in to George my nurse, the lady who performed the CAT scan, and Dr. Stevens who expertly and compassionately diagnosed my illness, thank you from the bottom of my heart and God bless you.

This essay originally appeared in the Quaboag Current, and the Tantasqua Town Common.
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