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Posts Tagged ‘suffering well’


Ezra 10The Fruitfulness of Suffering

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day by Elisabeth Leseur (205-206) entitled The Alms of the Heart:

We must never reject anyone who seeks to approach us spiritually; perhaps that person, consciously or unconsciously, is in quest of the “unknown God” (Acts 17:23) and has sensed in us something that reveals his presence; perhaps he or she thirsts for truth and feels that we live by this truth. 

Those who seem to be spiritually dead are not always those least accessible to the divine Word; when wood is dead, it needs only a spark to set it afire. 

Many people live on the surface of their lives without ever penetrating their profound and sorrowful depths.  If we knew how to center ourselves, how to look clearly into ourselves, and how to understand the meaning of fruitfulness of suffering, then the slightest gesture, the most imperceptible movement of the most unassuming of human beings, would reveal to us these abysses of sorrow or tenderness that remain open interiorly until the day when another pours light into them and causes life to burst forth.

I am certain that we know a number of people – we may even know many – who live on the surface of their lives, protecting themselves from plumbing the depths of their souls where they might encounter the true and living God.  These are people who say they are seekers but they hope to find truth while at the same steering clear of pain.  They say that they value integrity yet they hide in the shadowy portions of their own lives.

In Ezra 10 we meet people who have suffered so greatly and deeply for so long that they can bear no more . . . and so they capitulate to reality.  They acknowledge their guilt.  They own their actions.  They assemble to confess and to return to God.  They have allowed their grief to bear meaningful fruit.  They acknowledge their suffering . . . and they are ready to both approach and to be approached by those is pain.  They recognize and smile openly at like travelers.

The Leseur Meditation concludes in this way: Silence is sometimes an energetic act, and smiling is, too.

To defend oneself against the multiplicity of external things and the agitation they bring, make firm resolutions, and carry out faithfully the fruit of our meditation.

Look around oneself for proud sufferers in need, find them, and give them the alms of our heart, of our time, and of our tender respect.

Leseur urges us to be firm, steadfast, and resolute – it is a message we have heard several times this week.  She wants us to both welcome and be welcomed by those who understand the value of suffering well, to both receive and to give the kind of love Christ bears for us.  Leseur hopes to inspire us to live more in God’s world and less in our own.  She wants to open to us the understanding that . . . there is abundant fruitfulness in suffering . . . and that a gentle smile for fellow sufferers might be the perfect salutation to those who also bear witness to these alms of the heart. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 15.6 (2011): 205-206. Print.  

A Favorite from June 15, 2011.

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Job 19Suffering and Rejoicing Well

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Favorite from March 25, 2009.

The Book of Job is the first in the wisdom portion of scripture and it is one of my favorites.  I like the honesty and persistence with which this innocent man speaks.  He has been wronged by Satan, yet retains faith and hope in God.  He asks the questions we all ask; he makes the observations we all make: why do the wicked seem to skate through life without suffering, and why do the innocent suffer?  Each of us has endured hardship as Job does at one time or another; and for this reason his words are so valuable.  Job sinks into the lowest of depths with his despair; yet he soars with great hope and divine love.  This is the gift of his story . . . that he both suffers and rejoices well.

How long will you vex my soul?  At times the suffering is too great, too heavy.

I cry for help; there is no redress.  In our own lives, and in the lives of others, there are moments that ask too much of human strength and endurance.

My brethren have withdrawn from me, and my friends are wholly estranged.  At times we are utterly alone, with no sheltering place, no healing balm.

All my intimate friends hold me in horror; those whom I love have turned against me!  In the human experience, there is no greater punishment than isolation.

Why do you hound me as though you were divine, and insatiably prey on me?  At times we are so low that we descend into pits we did not know existed . . . and this is when we know that something new is arriving.

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s shall behold him.  Job understands that it is impossible for us to comprehend the depth, the width, the height or the timelessness of God.  Job – although not content with the mystery of his innocent suffering – accepts that from where he stands he cannot see or know the limitlessness of God or the complexity of his plan.  Job reminds us that each of us suffers.  Each of us stands accused at times when we are innocent.  Since this is so . . . the rest of his story is also true . . . we will be vindicated.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation about the Blessed Mother and her willingness to suffer as an innocent for the good of God’s economy: She neither regretted the past nor wished for the future – she accepted wholeheartedly the magnificent present.  She had found one beautiful pearl, and all she had she gave in order to buy it.  (Mother Marie des Douleurs)

So let us follow the example of Job and the example of Mary.  They understood that they, by entering into the mystery of suffering, were sharing in a sacred gift offered by the God who loves us so much . . . that he offers us his own divinity

Let us enter into today without looking back in anger or looking forward in despair.

Let us gather all that we have and all that we are to make this one purchase, the gift of transformative union where, through suffering, we enter into the world of God’s joy.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.3 (2009). Print.  A wonderful resource to suffer well is Marlena Graves’ book, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness. For more information, click on the book image. 

Or visit the site A Field Guide for Suffering by clicking on the images above.

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Job 29:18-20The Phoenix

Thursday, March 30, 2017

We have looked at Job frequently during our Noontimes, and this is good . . . because this book holds so much wisdom.  Today we reflect on the opportunity we have each day to rise like a mythical phoenix from the ashes of yesterday.

During this time when we anticipate the celebration of Resurrection, New Hope, and New Life, it is also a time to celebrate the quality of mercy which creates new life from old.  We learn so much more deeply when we are strained to a limit.  We remember the lesson so much better when we have felt the panic of knowing that we have skated too close to the edge of the ice.  We know, feel and can give compassion with so much more integrity when we have received it from someone.  When we have been at the end of a rope or at the bottom of a pit and we have received a healing and helping hand. This is when our character is forged.  This is how we draw close to who we can be.  This is how we become genuine.

The goal of suffering well is to allow the conversion of our pain to a healing, compassionate response, and to offer this new-found empathy to those who follow.  We become the experienced ear, the honest voice, the curing hand.  And when we think about it, we realize that this is the only way that suffering can make any sense.

So today and all days, let us remember that each morning we are given an awesome gift as we open our eyes and rise to greet the new day. We are given again the opportunity to rise from our own ashes.

A Favorite from March 31, 2008.

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Job 7Suffering Without End

Monday, August 29, 2016grapevines

A Favorite written on August 27, 2009

This is what we humans try to avoid at all cost – suffering without end – and yet this is impossible for us.  We will only experience true joy that lasts when we learn to allow suffering to transform us – and this is what I was thinking as I drove through Long Green Valley this morning on my way to work.  The heavy mist curled through the vineyards at our local winery, nourishing the grapes which are promised for the fall.  The vines are well tended, all reaching out to support one another – having been pruned back to little more than stumps last winter.  Interlocked, these branches reinforce one another, anticipating the heavy crop to come.  The workers go through their strict cycle of pruning and flourishing; the plants burgeon, wither and burgeon again, answering their maker’s call to yield fruit that will sustain.  I was imagining myself as a branch of God’s vines just as Christ tells us in John 15: I am the true vine, and my Father is the true grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whosoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 

This chapter in Job is followed by ones in which people who call themselves his friends urge him to confess his sins so that he might enjoy God’s grace once again.  Job will repeat often in this story that he is innocent – and he is.  His acquaintances will continue to berate him.  He will continue to trust in God.  And in the end . . . he will be restored.

We often feel as though we are suffering without end . . . and we are.  Yet, this suffering brings about abundant fruit which we will not have to struggle to produce.  This suffering carries within itself the seeds of restoration.  This suffering is not to be avoided for when it is, we avoid the opportunity to be touched, and held and cured by the master grower’s hands.  And this is something we do not want to miss.

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Matthew 6:25-34: Dependence on Godmy child I have this

April 30, 2015

This is the most basic lesson we have to learn as followers of Christ; and it is the lesson with which we struggle most frequently: Do not worry about your life . . . Are you not more important than [the birds in the sky]?  Yet we allow our fears about our survival to color what we do rather than allowing God to be the ultimate guide of our actions.

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?  We are powerless when it comes to time and space and yet we allow magical thinking to convince us that we can control the clock, that we can control our physical space.

If God so clothes the grass of the fields . . . will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  Yet we store up and hoard our resources without sharing, thinking that this will keep us safe from disaster.

All of these things [worry about food and clothes] the pagans seek . . . But seek first the kingdom [of God] . . . and all of these things will be given you besides.   We delude ourselves when we give credit to ourselves for the home in which we live, the clothes we wear and the vehicle we drive.  We forget that if we did not have the brain power and sense of aesthetics given us by God, our redemption given us by Christ and the good counsel given us by the Spirit . . . our circumstances would certainly be different.  Too much stress keeps us from seeing that we are already given more than what we seek.

living in god's care - handsDo not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.  We lend ourselves to prideful thinking when we take credit for all we have and do.  We must allow God to be our sole guide in all matters of the heart, mind and soul.

Sufficient for a day is its own evil.  Allowing anxiety to take us over is a sign that we do not believe that God will care for us . . . and this self-sufficiency can separate us from God.

Just yesterday evening at a gathering of friends, as an acquaintance was voicing her fears for the present and future, another member of the group said:  Well, now you have the opportunity to learn the most important lesson of all . . . trusting God.  The first woman replied:  I thought I had already learned that one.  Several of us – those who have been guided by the suffering we have experienced – smiled and nodded.

matthew_6_25_34_by_hopedreamer17-d2yj65tAnd so we reflect . . . We want to avoid suffering at all cost – not realizing that it is the suffering that brings us best to God. 

And so we pray . . . These are hard sayings . . . these are the lessons of Christ’s disciples . . . these are the gifts of a life lived hard and well . . . a life lived in Christ.  Amen. 

A Favorite from June 16, 2010.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

week-4[1]1 Peter 4:12 – 5:14

Out of Our Comfort Zone

It is human nature to avoid or reject anything which challenges us to move out of our comfort zone. We may want to eliminate from our lives anything which makes us re-think an idea, an issue, or a long-held perception of a person. We may want to circumvent any conflict or idea that challenges the status quo or asks us to open our minds to a new concept.  Peter tells us clearly that suffering can actually be good for us when we suffer according to God’s will – not according to some trial we create for ourselves out of our own stubbornness, pride or envy.

In our prayer time this weekend we might want to examine our desire to remain comfortable to determine if our trials are truly in line with Peter’s idea in verse 19: those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

From this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours in MAGNIFICAT: God’s faithful constancy is an anchor in an ever-shifting world, where love declared today is spurned tomorrow, and all other certainties are blown away by the wind.  In the end, God is all there is and all there need be.

May we find fidelity as the keystone of our relationship with our faithful creator.

May we remain constant even as we learn to shift ourselves out of our comfort zones.

May we do good today and every day as we hand our souls over to the will of God in accordance with the covenant we hold together.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT.14.3 (2007). Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 14, 2007.

Enter the word suffering into the blog search bar and spend some time with the concept of suffering.

The quote in the image above is credited to Neale Donald Walsch, the author of the “Conversations with God” series. The image is from Breathe Out.com at: http://www.breathe-out.com/?p=306

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