God Sees us Being Changed By Suffering – and Accompanies Us

God Sees us Being Changed By Suffering – and Accompanies Us September 12, 2014

Over at “America” magazine, Kerry Weber shares a powerful, deeply personal reflection about her niece Marian Elizabeth, who lived only a few hours after birth.

Kerry’s article, called “A Complicated Grief,” walks readers through the complexity of life and faith and doubt that we endure during tragic situations – and explores her heart and soul as she seeks to draw meaning out of suffering. It’s a must-read piece for anyone who has endured a loss of any kind, so here is a brief excerpt:

We first learn about the complications with my sister’s pregnancy on Mother’s Day weekend. My sister is rushed to the doctor, and the doctors think she may be having a miscarriage. She is put on bed rest until she can go back to the doctor on Monday to find out if the baby still has a heartbeat. “All we can do is pray,” my family keeps saying, though I am not always sure if saying such things means that we’re resigned to our seeming helplessness or attempting one last-ditch effort for control. I know that prayer can change the way we look at a situation, but I don’t care about that at the moment; I just want my prayer to change the outcome.

I pray that her suffering, her child’s suffering, be transferred, in some material way, to me. I want this all to work like it does when I go hiking and my boyfriend offers to carry more of our supplies because then we can walk farther together.

Monday morning comes and we learn that the baby’s heartbeat has been found. And then we learn the rest. We learn, gradually, of the numerous, potentially lethal developmental and health problems that the baby faces or will face if she makes it into this world. The doctors still are not even sure the baby will reach full term. And if she does, the doctors are increasingly certain she will not live beyond a few hours. The situation seems like a cruel response to my prayer, a kind of bait and switch. My sister and her husband decide that they will love this kid for whatever time they’ve got. And again, we wait.

•••

In early September, my sister is hugely pregnant, due to complications, even though the baby is still so small. Every time I look at her, I am reminded anew of what is and what likely will be soon. And life and death seem so close, and her whole house seems pregnant with both terrifying ambiguity and unlikely hope.

In the Letter of James we read (1:2):

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

This phrase—the testing of your faith—can be an odd one to parse, implying, it seems, that God sits on some gilded throne in a heavenly science lab taking notes on how we react to certain stimuli. I can’t believe that. Yet there is no doubt that suffering does test us. It forces us to figure out why we keep going, what we should rely on. And I have to believe that while God is not making clinical notes, God is taking note. Even when it feels as though we are alone, God sees us being changed by suffering. And even more than that, God accompanies us. God accompanies us through that pain, through the numbness, through the disbelief and the unbelief.

It’s worth your time to read the entire article and reflect on the wisdom Kerry draws from the situation.

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