Never Assume God’s Plan is Your Plan
Shortly after I wrote my first post for Patheos I started to put together my thoughts on suffering. Little did I know what was to come. It’s been over six months since I decided I would write about the topic and in that time I have learned much, not by studying, but by walking with suffering.
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. – 1 Peter 4:12
First came a surgery, then a second surgery. Then a child diagnosed with a heart condition who had to give up sports accompanied by the sleepless nights of worrying about said child. Then a mother-in-law slowly succumbing to dementia and passing away. Next a tumor, followed by months long respiratory illness and job insecurity. A drug overdose by a sibling and the list goes on and on. Surely 2016 wasn’t uniquely cursed as the memetic engine implied. However, it certainly seemed that way for me. I began to read the Book of Job in a sardonic tone sure instead I deserved my punishments.
Time hasn’t made all these things go away except the tumor, a blessed reprieve that it didn’t show itself in follow-up tests. Now would seem the time that I offer some positive note about suffering, how the mysterious will of God made manifest understanding within my soul the beauty of the Cross. Maybe some well-earned explanation of theodicy? No, on both. I will leave theodicy to the scholars.
Suffering is a lonely and isolating trial, seemingly bent on vanquishing hope. I trust the power of prayer and respect how blessed I am to have people willing to pray for and listen to me in my time of need, but suffering is a custom tool that carves around and about our biggest fears, peeling away the superfluous until all that is left is the desire to be comforted and loved. Its greatest gift is the reminder that no person, no money, no accomplishment, nothing of this Earth can offer eternal peace. Only God.
The Mind Seeks Heaven
I caught myself recently in a moment of deep worry over what would happen financially to my family at my death. As I rummaged through my life insurance paperwork, I cast my eyes upward in pensive thought, a reflexive action indicative of the mind disengaging from the world to visualize what the brain is trying to ponder. In that same moment individual concerns seemed to rapid fire in my thoughts, nearly simultaneously, as if trying to escape through my gaze in search of a solution. I was transfixed by the realization that my pain seemed capable of reaching out in longing for some place outside of my mind. We are often instructed to “offer up” our suffering, but in that moment I understood that my suffering desired to be offered up. These trials were not empty vexations but promises made in the blood of Christ to seal my soul for Heaven.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. – 1 Peter 4:13
Embrace suffering and know that although you may be lonely, you are not alone.
Trials are sent to some so as to take away past sins, to others so as to eradicate sins now being committed, and to yet others so as to forestall sins which may be committed in the future. These are distinct from the trials that arise in order to test men in the way that Job was tested. – St. Maximos the Confessor