Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

A time of illness can be a most difficult moment. The illness may strike us and we must cope with the pain, the loss of independence, the monotony of being confined to bed, and even the indignities which often come with the care which we require. Or the illness may strike someone we love. Often to watch someone we love suffer with an illness is more difficult than to suffer the illness ourselves. There are times when we can do nothing but be present to the person who is suffering. At those times we are like Mary at the cross who could not even give her dying son a drink of water when He cried out that He thirsted.
We can look upon illness as a cross, if not a curse. When illness strikes us, when the medical tests come back from the lab and we are told we have cancer, or need a serious operation, or there is no hope, we may be inclined to pray: “God where are you?” Or it may be the times when the devastating news is about someone we love: our parent has a stroke, our child has leukemia, or our spouse must have an immediate operation. Again our prayer may be: “God where are you?”
There is that deep temptation in such times to doubt the love of God. We ask ourselves if God knows what I’m going through, or even if God cares. We can feel alone and abandoned by God.
This goes to the core of the mystery of suffering. If there is a loving God, why is there suffering? Why doesn’t God do something?
I have no answer for this question. The greatest theologians have grappled with this question without an answer. The Bible itself grapples with it with no answer. The Book of Job addressed the question head-on. Job, a good man, suffered greatly. Finally he asked God that one-word question which I think every believer will inevitably ask of God: “Why?” God did not reply. Instead God asked Job if it was Job who made the earth, placed the stars in the heaven, or taught the hawk to soar. Job then bowed before God and said that he would ask no more questions. In other words, Job recognized that God’s mind far surpassed Job’s and that, even if God tried to explain it to him, Job could not understand. So Job bowed before God and trusted in God even though he did not understand.
On the cross even Jesus asked His Father “Why?” “My God, my God, why have you abandoned Me?” But with trust in the Father, Jesus then said: “Into your hands Father I commend my spirit.”
In times of suffering it is for us to place ourselves into the loving hands of God. St Paul wrote: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) St. Paul suffered much but he believed that all things work for good for those who love God. That is extremely difficult for us to accept. Suffering is the crucial moment of faith. It is when our faith is tested and when we decide whether we will trust God or not.
I do not know why God allows illness to devastate us or our loved ones. Yet I know that God can bring good even out of the worst of moments. While I do not understand the mind of God, I am convinced that at times of illness God has the definite purpose of tearing people away from the world and of making them holy.
St Paul wrote that “… when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) Sickness can remind us that we are not in charge. Sickness can remind us that we need God. Sickness can remind us of what is truly important and that so much of the other things we seek after in life is merely straw which passes away. Sickness can be a time when we turn our attention to God and allow God to work powerfully in our lives. It can be a time when we become more sensitive to the pains of others. It can be a time when we truly become strong because, in our weakness, we allow the strength of God into our hearts. It can be a time when we ask God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It can be a time when we allow God to be God.
Let us pray for those who suffer illnesses. Let us pray for their caregivers. And, if we are the ones with illnesses, let us pray that we know that God is with us in all things and that all things work for good for those who love God.

By Editor

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