Some thoughts on represented suffering

Some thoughts on represented suffering August 2, 2010

I just finished reading Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe, and I highly recommend it.  It was suggested to me on my March Opus Dei retreat, and I used the book for spiritual meditations over the last few months.  I thought I would share a passage from the book this morning:

“The worst kind of suffering is not that which we experience; it is represented suffering that grips the imagination and makes us adopt false attitudes.  It is not reality (basically positive, even with its share of suffering) that causes problems, but the way we imagine it and depict it…projecting things into the future crushes us–not experiencing suffering but anticipating it.”

In a recent issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, there was an article discussing happiness.  According to that article, people suffer far worse from their imagination of future sad events, than from their actual experience of the event.  I know this to be true in my own life.  When I was pregnant with out daugther Therese, who we knew would die at birth, I spent the greater part of my pregnancy suffering with fears as to how I could watch my daughter die.  I didn’t live in the present, but let my mind wander towards the future.  When she was born the grace was there, and at the time of her birth and death I felt more grace and peace than at any other moment of my life.  And yet for months the fear of that moment caused me such worry and anxiety.  And again after her birth, my grief mixed with fear for the future of our family, and I was consumed with worries about never having another healthy baby.  My very real present suffering was greatly exaggerated by allowing all sorts of future fears to consume me.  This seems to be a pattern with me, especially during pregnancies.

I am always relearning the lesson that God doesn’t give grace in advance.  Sufficient for today is the days own troubles.  While I used some serious situations above to demonstrate my point, there are much simplier ways to illustrate this teaching.  I often spend part of my day fearing a workout, or a phone call, or a family gathering.  And yet that workout or phone call is never as bad as I imagined it to be, and often my anticipation of the event was the worst part of the entire experience.  We have plenty of real suffering in the present moment, and this suffering can be real fruit to our lives.  But the idea of suffering, the anticipation of suffering must be crushed.  And so today I pray that God may give us all the grace to live only in the present moment.

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