Ever watch the news? Or read the newspaper (yes they still exist!)? Or scroll through Facebook and see all the different links and articles posted about what’s happening in the world today? It seems as though there’s a common theme: suffering. Everyone around us is suffering. Like I said in my previous blog post – life is hard. And the stupid Wretch (Padre Pio’s term for Satan) is constantly wanting to “steal, slaughter, and destroy” the goodness all around us.
Dictionary.com would define the act of suffering (verb) in 3 ways:
- To undergo or feel pain or distress.
- To sustain injury, disadvantage, or loss
- To endure pain patiently or willingly
The type of suffering I want to talk about right now is more geared toward the 3rd definition: to endure pain patiently or willingly. If you think about a time in your life where you have undergone suffering, or maybe you’re suffering from something or through something now… you know all the pain and struggle associated with what this word means. Maybe your heart hurts. Or maybe you feel lost. Confused. Alone. Forgotten. Abandoned. Angry. Bitter. At some point in every person’s life, we all suffer. We all feel pain. This stinks right? Sometimes it seems almost impossible to endure another day of pain and heartache! I remember a year where all I said was, “You duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped!” (Jeremiah 20:7) I couldn’t see beyond the hurt, pain, and anger I had about a certain situation in my life, and I thought this suffering would endure forever! It wasn’t until someone extended her hand out to me and offered to walk through my situation with me, that I embraced the 3rd definition of suffering: enduring whatever it was I was going through patiently and willingly. And it is here in this hopeful endurance, with her help, that healing and acceptance finally began to happen.
What that person was for me was kind of what a Pastoral Counselor can be for you as you suffer… from whatever life has thrown at you. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope), writes:
The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer… Indeed, to accept the “other” who suffers, means that I take up his suffering in such a way that it becomes mine also. Because it has now become a shared suffering, though, in which another person is present, this suffering is penetrated by the light of love. The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. (38)
A Pastoral Counselor is one who can be with you while you suffer and endure trial. They/we have the knowledge to help you through your trials and difficulties while at the same time bringing the love of Christ to your heart. Jesus can and does want to heal you!
Ok great! But… suffering still stinks right? And it is a major bummer that we all have to suffer in some way and in some degree throughout our lives! Pope Benedict would go on in Spe Salvi to say:
We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.” (37)
As someone who is training to be a Pastoral Counselor and one who has suffered, I’d agree whole-heartedly with the Pope! The more we are able to look at our sufferings and meet them head on, enduring willingly and persevering through the pain, the better our outcomes are in the long run! It is worth it. Healing is worth the hurt and pain right now. And if you don’t have to walk through the ditch alone, don’t! Pastoral Counselors (and counselors in general!) are here and willing to help. We’re here and willing to walk with you.
…No man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse… It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. (48)
I’ve always thought that hope was a dangerous thing to have and to believe in. I felt as though whenever I “hoped” something would turn out a certain way, I was often disappointed and let down. But I was operating out of an incorrect mindset of what hope was. A wise and dear mentor once told me “Hope isn’t dangerous – expectations are. We can always hope because hope does not disappoint.” The more I am able to change my expectations and perceptions of my circumstances…and the more I am able to bring areas of darkness into the light…the more hope is able to build and grow in my heart. It is in believing that hope will not disappoint and light will prevail over darkness, that true freedom and peace can come.