There are times when I suffer real physical pain. Given the already extremely weak and crumpled state of my body every day and, then, adding another physical ailment (which I don’t wish to describe here) that causes the intense pain and severe fatigue, well… it’s just really hard to bear sometimes. At the end of last week and over the weekend, I have been going through this. These times are not very pretty and they are not very fun. Sometimes, I find that my mind gets away from me with an increase of adrenaline in my body and I have to try to focus on something else, usually television, in order to get through it. The point is not that I need to be distracted, but, rather, that the pain itself is a distraction: a detraction from normal routines, level thinking, clarity, and peace.
And I know that there are people who go through this every day. When I pray, begging for relief, I cry, feeling so sorry for not being able to handle it better.
But… maybe, pain isn’t something to be handled….
Once, when I was going through one of these temporary bouts, I decided that, if I’m serious in my quest for truth and if I truly believe that God is love, then I should be paying attention to how I, as a person of faith, deal with trials and tribulations. So, in the midst of my woe, hurting, terribly fatigued, and scared, I asked: what is God doing for me right now? Where is this God of love in the midst of my misery?
Two truths of life came to me right there and then:
#1. God creates and sustains my very existence, as God creates and sustains every living thing, the whole universe. That’s first and foremost, never to be forgotten.
#2. There are things in life that we don’t want, that we don’t choose for ourselves: ailments and diseases, weaknesses and losses, faults and failings, terrors and ordeals – sufferings. Sometimes, we can’t do anything to change them or get rid of them. They’re there and that’s that – but this fact can never change truth #1.
Later on in that day, my mind calmed a bit, although my physical pain hadn’t changed a great deal, except, perhaps, my adrenaline was running low and that could have been the reason for the light settling. Whatever the physiological happenings at the time, there came a clarity, kind of like a light, something like peace. Nothing dramatic, no fanfare. In continuing my earlier exploration, it was clear to me that, in the midst of misery, clarity can come. It’s like a gift given to us by God, not because we deserve it, but because we need it.
Clarity came, a sense of peace and that underlying kind of joy, not because pain had ceased, not because I had followed the rules and regulations, but because I was in need and was open to receive it. I was open to receive what God gives freely to me out of love for me, as God loves and gives to everyone. It’s like the joy that I wrote about in my last article: a free gift poured down like rain, and either our little bowls are turned upside-down, in on ourselves, or are right-side-up, and open. It’s the humility of knowing that I am nothing without God; it’s the recognition, acceptance, and gratitude for what only God can give; it’s the raising of a beggar’s bowl in the surrender that is trust.
The beggar’s bowl… this is the human heart, made by God to be filled by God with Divine Love.
The God of love is ever present… the question is, am I present?
Christ tells us in Sacred Scripture, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” As with everything in life, we must remember God’s initiative. It is not our asking that causes the giving of the answer or even our knocking that causes the opening of the door. The answer is there, the gift is there, the treasure is there, and the door is always opened. But it is only if we ask – if we are in that state of humbly needing, lifting our begging bowls – that we are then able to receive. It is only when we open our eyes to seek that we are able to see and only when we go for the door that we are able to enter. I don’t go out and get true clarity on my own initiative or through my own devices, just as I can’t “get” true joy through my own self-centered means.
God initiates always. We are only able to love because God loves us first. Mercy and peace and joy are always available, waiting for us to receive. But, sometimes, we get so distracted. Everything good and beautiful is present for us – if we haven’t blinded and deafened ourselves with the distractions of the world and of selfish pursuits. For, there are many different kinds of pain. It’s not always physical pain that is the worst.
© 2015 Christina Chase
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Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.