My Great Blessing in Suffering

cross-prayer“Lord, help us follow the example of your Son’s patience and endurance. May we face all life’s difficulties with confidence and faith.” — Christian Prayer, Liturgy of the Hours.

This is one of the great gifts of our Christian faith: To know that Christ is greater than even the worst of our difficulties. He is with us in the fire of suffering and will bring us through refined as gold.

Like the fourth figure in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the presence of Jesus Christ has been with me throughout more than 32 fiery years of degenerative multiple sclerosis. His presence becomes more real with the passage of time. This has been my blessing in suffering.

This understanding could not have been realized otherwise.

The 17th Century poet and divine John Donne suffered an illness that nearly killed him. Later, he wrote: “Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it.” (Devotions on Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII)

By surrendering ourselves to Christ, and placing our sufferings with Him, our tribulations can really become a treasure to spiritually transform us beyond ourselves and our anguish to become more like Him. Life is a journey.

Suffering presents us with a fork in the road. We can choose one path and give our suffering to Christ to mature us and make us more fit for heaven; or, we can take the other path which is self-centered autonomy.

The first path leads to answers and consolation in Christ and ultimately, peace and joy. The second path leads to questions in self-centredness and ultimately, bitterness or despair.

A day may come when you come to that fork in the road of your life journey. Which path will you take?

Remember, the first path may seem lonely because the culture in which we live treasures autonomy and the second path is taken by many. I chose the first path and found Christ walked with me and a great cloud of witnesses who went before me.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and was sat down at  the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility, from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12.1-3)

Mark Davis Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at MPickup@shaw.ca or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.