This month, one year ago, we turned our 6 month old baby over to the hands of skilled brain surgeons to save her life. They did just that, though over the course of the 12 months to follow, much suffering has ensued as we tried to gain as much information on this rare brain malformation she developed gestationally, as well as what God's plan could possibly be in this innocent child having to suffer. With Hannah's life transitioning to its end, we patiently await either her last minute miraculous healing, or her glorious homecoming.
That question, the question of an innocent child suffering, will shake the faith of the sincerest follower. It will make the weak walk away from God. It will bring you to a deep inner conflict. Yet most importantly, it will bring you directly to the heart and passion of Jesus, or for me as her mother, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Suffering is both an intellectual challenge (why would God allow this to happen to Hannah?) as well as an emotional challenge (why has God abandoned or punished me?) I have no intention of explaining why my perfect daughter has to suffer. My focus is not on why God allows her to suffer, rather how we choose to deal with it.
To suffer, truly, is hard. There is little easy about it. It feels lonely and isolating and heavy, sometimes even crushing. It feels unfair and impossible to understand. Suffering demands faith and trust and those are hard to develop when the One you are putting that faith and trust in could seemingly lift you from it so effortlessly. So how do we handle this conundrum? I am not an expert, simply struggling on my path to sainthood, but here is what I have learned.
We can choose to be a victim in our suffering. Allowing thoughts to grow roots in us that we are being punished, that this suffering is bad and is happening because we are bad, deserving of it, or worse, unloved or abandoned. These take root when we seek to understand it and can not see or find meaning in it. Therefore, we assume in our great authority there must be none. It is in our victimizing of ourselves that we find friends. Like Anger. Confusion. Resentment. Fear. And my personal least favorite: Pity. Friends, these are not good friends. They have nothing to give you besides further lamenting. I have read the sad and angry psalms and of Job's friends and Jeremiah's complaints. How sad life is for them, the victims of a difficult suffering.
We can choose to be a warrior in our suffering. We can armor ourselves with courage and stories of the Saints. Those who suffer are forced to be brave and in the process find themselves amongst friends. Friends like Hope. Redemption. Conversion. And my personal favorite: Joy. We can meet it head on, not fully understanding it, but willingly accepting it. It is when we do this that we have power over our suffering, and it gains immense purpose. When we unite it with our own Lord's suffering, He can transform it. Transform us. Bring immense blessing from it; including bringing souls who otherwise would not have come into the glory of heaven. What a responsibility our suffering becomes.
You see, when we lament and throw our fits (I have had some good ones myself) we must look around at our friends who are by our sides, splashing in our tears with us. Is this who we surround ourselves with? Are we really going anywhere? When we take on suffering and face it with every intention of defeating it, we find ourselves on a path to Calvary, alongside Jesus. You choose who you want to stand beside on your journey. With that, we must also be good friends, encouraging each other instead of apologizing. Helping bear the weight of the cross of those suffering so they can continue the journey farther.
I believe we are thrown off in our day when sufferings either small or great meet us. This is true because we have a mentality that suffering is not normal, nor should it ever happen to us. In fact, we should do everything to avoid it. Instead, when you wake up, expect that today will bring suffering and start your day by saying, "I willingly accept my share." And at that moment, every day, decide whether you will be a victim of your suffering, or a warrior over it. Ultimately we are blind to think we are not submerged in this war of good and evil, each opportunity to suffer is its own battle, and if you have met my daughter in any capacity, you would agree she is worth my fight.