Time for a little CoffeeTalk. I am on day 7, approximately, of dealing with a nasty cold (probably born of a slight sinus infection gone awry). But I got to spend four of those days in the great company of family, at the family matriarch’s lakehouse retreat. I made 9 dozen (plus one) molasses cookies in anticipation…all of which were gone before leaving. There were massive family meals – notably, the brother grilled his slightly-famous burgers, with fresh Upstate farmstand corn on the cob – and an outing to the iconic Ice-Cream-And-Free-Mini-Golf joint which we frequent. Ah, lovely. Pictures to follow, eventually…
I don’t have lot to say, but lately I’ve been mired in the ups-and-downs of life. We’ve all had that moment: the exuberant high is rather quickly overwhelmed by a new low. Exhibit A: returning from a trip out of town to find all those things you left behind are still there, and begging for attention more insistently than before. For some it’s a pervading physical issue that continues to wreak havoc on the mental health of the afflicted… for others, the loss of a loved one at much too young an age.
All of these, I’ve seen happen to this week. I still struggle with what to say to those suffering – and I certainly don’t play the “someone else is worse off than you, so suck it up” card. If you think that really helps alleviate someone’s suffering, I’m simply going to disagree with you. It does not. Much in the same way that we as sinners do no justice to our nature by comparison with others, comparing our sufferings is simply ignoring the larger issue.
How do we deal with suffering in the face of our greater lives? It is simply something to be acknowledged, tolerated, and then ignored? “Suffering is a part of life. Deal with it.” Is that addressing the fact that our souls are struggling to comprehend, to handle, to “deal with” that which has happened? Are we called to do something greater, in some of our weakest moments?
“Your suffering is a great means of love, if you make use of it, especially if you offer it for peace in the world.Suffering in and of itself is useless, but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love.”
— Blessed (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta (“No Greater Love”)
Ah, yes. The gauntlet has been thrown: offer it up. Do you know how many times I’ve heard that in my life, and yet, it still takes a mental workout to comprehend what it truly means? It’s easy to over think it. I tend to think ‘offer it up’ goes hand-in-hand with ‘He must increase, I must decrease’. Don’t ask me to explain it; I’m not sure I can. The conclusion I’m finally arriving at is thus: yes, there is suffering. For us, for others, for those we know and those we don’t know. no, it isn’t easy and no, we don’t need to ignore it. Yes, there is hope.
I turn back to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (from “Life in the Spirit”) to say it for me:
When you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the Resurrection has to come—–the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ.
The joy of Easter has to dawn.