Healing Pain and Suffering

Oct 29, 2018

One of the least understood ways of dealing with the pain and suffering in our lives and in this world is to not resist the pain and suffering, to not resist what is already in our lives or someone elses. Everyone in this world suffers to a greater or lesser extent and nothing, not education or wealth or social status, will reduce our chances of escaping pain.


But, and it’s a big BUT, we greatly increase our suffering and assure its continual torment in us by denying, opposing and rejecting anything we don’t want to feel or do. There is no way that we can erase our suffering by rejecting it. We only give it more power in our lives by that denial. So we suffer more.


In fact, the opposite is true: whatever suffering we acknowledge diminishes. Whatever we push away increases. If we are willing to thoroughly grieve our losses and pain, our suffering diminishes. If we ignore it or push it away, it grows. Once guilt and shame is acknowledged fully, seeing all the consequences of what we have done or what has been done to us, we can enter into a new life, in which the suffering is truly in the past, acknowledged, but no longer troublesome. Let Jesus bear these burdens for you, so that you can start anew.[1]


This is the nature of healing, the healing that God offers us. Really, we cannot heal ourselves, but we can allow God to heal us. When we bring our whole selves to God in love—our hearts, minds, souls and bodies, along with all that has happened to us and all that we have done, when we live in the First Great Commandment of Jesus,[2] God will heal us gradually or sometimes all at once. Or He might tell us as He did Paul that “’my (God’s) grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Paul went on: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”[3]


We Americans of the 21st C. don’t want to suffer at all; we think it shouldn’t happen to us. We’re the good guys in this world! And yet, we live in pain and suffering, albeit much less than some folk in this world. Are we to be stuck here, wishing away all the pain, expending our best energies to deny and push it away, to resent God for “punishing” us unfairly? Are we to be burdened by our suffering for the rest of our lives? Are we to use our best creative energies to deny, to try to defeat the pain, to concentrate our lives on avoiding all pain, only to increase our own?


After all, this is about the cross we each have to bear. Will we be willing to face it head on? To acknowledge how hurt and angry and abused we have been? How often and how much we have hurt others? To be free of all the suffering finally? This is what God asks of us: to let go of our resistance to all suffering, to allow Him to lead our lives and to heal what He thinks is best for Him to heal, so that we can bring more and more of ourselves in service to Him. Will we let Him lead us through the grief and pain? Will we let Him free us from our suffering? When will we allow God into our deepest hurts and begin to see the changes He would bring about in us as we surrender to His will for us?


We are to trust God and to let him affect how we think about everything, including our suffering. Here is how Thomas Merton wrote about our suffering: “all that God wills tends in some way or other to lead us to truth and to him, if we correspond with his will. The sufferings he sends us are remedies destined for our purification and for our good. In all that happens he has no other end than to bring us to contemplation and agape(love).[4] God does not intend us to stay stuck in our pain and suffering for our whole lives. He offers His  presence and His healing grace to lead us out of it and into a new and fuller way of living our lives. And then we are truly His!


Questions to ponder over the week:  Am I denying or hiding or pushing away any pain and suffering in my life that others caused or that I caused?  What is the cost to me and to others that I love of not acknowledging and owning all of this suffering? Am I willing to own the pain and then turn it over to God and to let Him deal with it? What would it feel like to have the pain in the past, a memory, but with no emotion or denial tied to it? What is the freedom that I desire? Will I lift that longing up to God? (Just choose the questions that draw you.)


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who have owned our suffering and who have turned it all over to God. May we let Him carry our burdens, so that we are free of them. May we be filled with joy and longing for more.


Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writing about the spiritual life.


I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, But if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.

[1] Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

[2] Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12: 28-34, Luke 10:25-28

[3] 2 Corinthians 12:9

[4] Thomas Merton, A Course in Christian Mysticism, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 2017, p. 60


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