The Sword of Sorrow pierced my heart but love poured in! I did not despair. I am not saying there was no pain but I did not doubt. I persevered in prayer and trusted in Jesus. Soon joy abounded and I felt like dancing. I did dance. What is different inside me? Why did I not give in to depression like in times past? Why was I not overcome with pain and sadness? How could I still have joy and thank God in the midst of such profound sorrow? I could not even speak without crying for two days after the call that my nephew was in an awful car accident and in critical condition in ICU (pictured above). I believe the answer is I truly trust in Jesus now. I have abandoned myself to God’s divine will. How did I do this? It was not I. Our Triune God changed me.
Just a few short years ago I was miserable in life, struggling with sin unable to find happiness anywhere or in anything. I turned to God. I just wanted help. I didn’t necessarily want to change my life or stop my sinful behavior I just knew I needed help. I won’t rewrite my conversion story (you can read it here). In short, God answered me. I sought Him and he changed me. This is a stark contrast to my current condition of trust, joy and even thanksgiving in my sorrow. I only had to make the first step and turn toward God and He came to my rescue.
My nephew was struggling to live. The first 24 hours were harrowing and then he took a turn for the worse! The whole family came together in prayer and fasting. We all asked everyone we know (and don’t know) to join us in prayer. I prayed that my every breath, even while sleeping, would be a prayer for him and our family. At morning rosary I still could not speak. Using my voice brought exorbitant sobbing and tears. I remained silent at my turn to lead and someone stepped in for me. All I could do was cry and pray silently. Then something changed. He didn’t start getting better yet but he stopped getting worse. This small change is when I noticed the love and joy God had poured into my broken heart. I felt as though my chest would crack open from all the love and joy God was pouring into my heart. It overflowed out of me and I could love people more in my sorrow. I can rejoice in my suffering and thank God for it! What a mystery of faith.
I have learned and believe that God holds us all in existence. Nothing can happen without Him allowing it to happen. I know this truth deep in my being. God did NOT cause this accident but I know he would only allow it to occur for a GREATER good. Jesus I trust in you! I can already see some of the good that God is bringing from this suffering. I see His hand in the whole situation. We didn’t even know about the accident until 10 hours after it happened. The hospital didn’t know his name or who his family was. God found a way to notify my sister anyway. Both his lungs were crushed, bruised and bleeding but not a single bone was broken. I have also learned that the goal in life is NOT to avoid suffering at all cost. On the contrary, we need to suffer to achieve holiness and get to heaven.
The first good to come from suffering is the prompting to turn to God. He is waiting for us all to just choose him with our own free will. It doesn’t have to be a huge change just a little honest request for God’s help. My nephew’s tiny little turn away from getting worse opened up the floodgates from heaven for me. It reminds me of how God will open up the floodgates of mercy to sinners with just a tiny little turn away from evil towards God. God will pour out His grace to those who ask! He will help us and perfect us through suffering. “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, that you may be made perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) Why do we need endurance unless salvation is a journey and not just a simple single act, something we can lose with our own free will? (But that argument is for a future post.)
We are all called to holiness. Just look to sacred scripture if you don’t believe me. Matthew 5:48 in Jesus’ own words he says “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.” And Hebrews 11:40 “since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” And Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” How are we supposed to be perfect? I have tried and failed. It is not our work that perfects us but the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We have to cooperate however. Christ saved us, reconciled us to God through suffering. We too must suffer with Christ to be made perfect and get to heaven. Once again lets turn to sacred scripture. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” (Phil 1:29) “And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:17) “There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God’.” (Acts 14:22)
Now I know the true goal in life is to allow our wills to be conformed to God’s will. This is how we will get to heaven, through much suffering. If you do not know God, then ask him to show himself to you. If you do not have a desire for God, then ask him for the desire to know him. After all, “If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask!” (Matt 7:11) Like my nephew’s healing the change won’t happen quickly. The reason is that God desires a relationship with us. If he just gives us what we want we will just walk away and only return when our next need arises like in The Giving Tree. God wants us to spend time with him, get to know him and fall in love!