St. Paul wrote these words long ago, reminding us the Holy Spirit’s presence is unmistakable and one day we, along with creation, will be renewed. We have God’s Word telling us there will be suffering, while reminding us we are not alone and will be restored, strengthened and given courage. While suffering is not God’s desire for us, it occurs in the process of life and is a reality we are called to accept for those we care for and ourselves.
Whether unexpected tragedy, overwhelming anxiety, sorrow, the many forms of loss, including physical debilitation, parts of us die. I believe new life can come out of suffering, even death. As we fill our voids with God’s presence, we are transformed into reflections of His love, enabling us to minister to others. None of this happens automatically and the pain caused by fear can be relentless. For some people, the worst part of illness is fear, for others it is financial strain and for others illness represents failure. We are always encouraged to be gentle with ourselves and look for the snatches of heaven where love is present.
Many of us question ‘why’ and often look for someone or thing to blame. I am comforted (and hope you will be also) by the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, (Letters to a Young Poet,) Towards All that is Unsolved in Your Heart, “Be patient, try to live the questions. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given. You would not be able to live them. Live everything. Live the questions now. You will gradually without noticing it. Live into the answers, some distant day.”
Redeeming moments of transformation – heaven on earth – are all around us: when we are not judging ourselves or loved ones; when we are not trying to fix, give advice or try to resolve their problem; when we accept feelings without censure, particularly if you have ‘history’ with a parent, spouse, etc. We can be a healing presence and enjoy a ‘snatch of heaven.’ We do this when we walk in the light of God’s presence, welcoming blessings in so many ways. Good things are better and the difficult more bearable when we share with the Lord.
Popular theology held that sickness was a punishment for sin, so when Jesus passes the man blind from birth in John 9, He is asked who sinned this man or his parents, that he was born blind? He answers, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through Him.” (John 9:3) “The positive message is God intending to redeem the blind man’s suffering by using it for His glory. This healing reminds us that, in often unexpected ways, our suffering can be used by God for good.” (The Bible Reader's Companion, Lawrence O. Richards)
With grateful hearts, we live by faith, trusting God can work our suffering for good. Can we look with eyes toward the glory God can bring forth through the circumstances of our caretaking?