A friend came by for coffee this morning. She has been having a very difficult time with family issues. It would not be a stretch to say that her situation is causing her to suffer.
She knows I am a Jesus freak, and in fact, has been going back to church since I started talking with her about it. I know that it isn't an instant fix, but I also know that if she invites him to, God will help her through this painful time.
She is a Roman Catholic.
I told her: Your church does a particularly good job of helping to understand the role of suffering in our lives. John Paul II wrote an amazing encyclical about how suffering can be the doorway to salvation. Humans suffer. It is a common thing we all share. All of us at some point or another experience it. But because God knew that, he used his own suffering on the cross as the vehicle for redemption. Suffering will never be meaningless now. It always has the power to be redeemed through Jesus. People will fail you, but God never will let you suffer alone. And in fact, it is in your suffering that you reach out to him.
I think this helped her.
I have another friend who has been suffering from tremendous health problems for the last few years. One thing keeps leading to another and his health gets worse and worse. I keep thinking of Job.
But when I mentioned Job to him, recently, he laughed and said he was ready to move on to the psalms.
Of course! The psalms are much more of a complete picture of our engagement with God. We whine at him. We sing joyful praises. We thank him. Ask him to help us. Bow before him when he does. The suffering in the psalms is probably closer to what most of us actually experience because it is not unrelenting. We have moments or days or years of joy mingled in with anger or grief or loss. What the psalms teach us, more than anything, is that we must always turn to God.
I never really learned much about Buddhism. I read a few books, but at the end of the day, the idea of detachment just didn't work for me. I am a mom, after all. It seemed all too easy to detach if you were a monk or nun. But as a mom, detaching from my children seemed not only impossible, but undesirable. Unnatural. In the Buddhist scheme of things, my attachment to them will likely cause me to suffer at some point.
But what Jesus promises is that our Love, although we may suffer for it, will ultimately be the very thing that redeems us from suffering forever.