To See Beyond Our Own Suffering

Kathy Christianson

We all have suffered in the past or may be suffering today. I’m not sure I know of anyone who has not expressed distress of some kind in their lives – sometimes for a moment and sometimes for a long time; sometimes an issue at a time, sometimes many painful moments at a time.

I believe that the message that Peter shared with us in today’s Gospel is that we may suffer many times in our lifetime and not to be surprised that this is going to happen. Because of our God-given free will and consequently the choices that we make, we will often have “fiery ordeals”, as Peter calls them. What deserves attention though, is one step beyond the suffering.

What lies beyond the suffering, without discounting what is going on inside of us, is a place of peace, if we choose to go there.
As Peter wrote, maybe we could find a sense of peace in knowing that what we are suffering is minor compared to someone else. Christ suffered. Maybe we come to recognize that His suffering was a lot larger than ours when we think of all He went through, including being nailed to a cross. Maybe, when we move one step outside of our own suffering, we find a sense of gratitude that whatever we are going through could be worse; saying to ourselves ‘I can be grateful that whatever I am going through is not as bad as something else’.

If we can go beyond our own suffering, and don’t get stuck in it, it leaves room for us to SEE beyond ourselves.

This is a story about Katherine Wolf, who on April 21, 2008, at the age of 33, experienced a severe stroke. She, and her husband, Jay, created a blog called Hope Heals on the Internet to share their experiences with others. Katherine writes:
“My suffering, both after the stroke and to this day, has been a powerful informant for me. I lived a fairly oblivious life before my stroke. While undeniably awful and painful, calamity has meant this beautiful and heartbreaking deepening in me. I’m not quite as naive to the world around me – both the beauty and brokenness.
I am close to Christ in a way that I never was before this happened. I have tasted true suffering. I still taste it to a degree every day of my life. As a severely disabled 33 year old, I NEED to believe the truths of our Father. I don’t just believe in him anymore.
The state of California deemed me permanently disabled in the fall of 2010. As a 28-year-old girl, I was put on Medicare, my driver’s license was revoked, and I was issued a PERMANENT handicapped license plate for our car.
I have had 11 surgeries since my stroke, much painful emotional and physical heartbreak, a severely broken leg, 2 dramatic, cutting-edge facial reconstructive surgeries, and almost 2 years in hospital settings while my son was 6 months – 2.5 years old.
Deep pain and suffering of every sort has been a reality of my life for the past 7 years. I have learned NOT to fight it. Despite what every self-help piece of propaganda will tell you, I have embraced the suffering. I have learned not to fight, but to lean in hard when it hurts the most. The pain has been the instructor through which I have learned deeper truths about myself and God.
I have been broken and battered, but I am not bitter. I feel special in fact. I was chosen for this. We all “were chosen for such a time as this”. We long to lead lives worthy of our calling. We truly do see our pain as an award – a special club we were initiated into on April 21, 2008. Nothing will ever be the same, and we don’t want it to be.”
That is Katherine’s story. The lesson; with increased awareness of what is around us and being in gratitude for all that we are and all that we have, will, as Peter also tells us, allow us to “be glad and shout for joy when [Christ’s] glory is revealed”. Our hearts will be lifted because we will be able to SEE, really see, this beautiful glory of Christ because we are looking beyond ourselves.

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