Knowing how I have been seeking to gain some acceptance of suffering, my husband sent me this article from the newsletter at his work. I was touched and wanted to share it with you!
I was reading a piece the other day about Kayla Mueller, the 26 year
old human rights activist and humanitarian worker who was kidnapped in
Syria and subsequently killed. Her family released these words she
wrote to her father on his birthday in 2011:
I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how
you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.
I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people
find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in
suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my
hands as tools to relieve suffering.
Our natural inclination is to attempt to avoid suffering at all costs.
We creatively distance ourselves from places, circumstances and people
that have the potential to cause us trouble or pain. We anesthetize
ourselves from personal suffering by grand schemes of denial and
distraction. But despite our best efforts, it is impossible to avoid
or remove the reality of suffering from our lives or the lives of
others. The only legitimate stance in the face of suffering is to
accept it and enter into it.
Sometimes we experience material suffering – deprivation of some
physical need – hunger, displacement, financial instability,
unemployment, immobility, sickness, violence. At other times our
suffering is relational – rejection, estrangement, misunderstanding,
deceit, emotional abuse, isolation, fear, paranoia. And suffering is
also vividly experienced on a spiritual level – guilt, regret, hatred,
greed, cowardice, self-doubt, alienation, purposelessness. All of
these forms of suffering are cruel and harsh and frequently
experienced as massively overwhelming and oppressive.
It is far more than enough to have to bear our own sufferings, but our
faith traditions call upon us to enter into the sufferings of others
and help bear those burdens as well. How can all this be possible?
It is only possible to the extent that we give up the oh-so-very tight
control that we try to impose upon our lives and those of others,
accept the reality of our vulnerabilities, and experience the ironic
and unexpected richness and strength that come when we realize our
intimate solidarity with all of our other suffering sisters and
brothers. This is not a case of finding company in misery, but of
finding that ultimate meaning emerges only as we open ourselves
without mask or pretense to the reality of the other and come to
understand ourselves as integral parts of the much greater reality of
the unfolding of creation.
I am reminded of the post-resurrection story where the evangelist
recounts Thomas the doubter’s encounter with the risen Lord wherein
Thomas is invited to put his hands right into the very raw wounds of
Jesus. One of the great privileges we healthcare workers have is the
invitation extended to us by our patients and their families to enter,
if even for a very short period of time, into the physical,
psychological and spiritual wounds of their sufferings.
Young Kayla had it right. We come to understand and encounter the
incredible, completely unmerited, tender embrace and absolute
acceptance of a loving God in the very center of our sufferings.