“Suffering and death are not enemies, but doors leading to new levels of knowledge and of love.” –Fr. Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living
That’s some heavy stuff to consider. Most people, myself included, aren’t comfortable thinking about suffering and death.
However, I threw my back out a few days ago. Pain and suffering are kinda on my mind all the time right now.
Also, a couple weeks ago I got diagnosed with what my doctor called “absolute neutropenia,” which basically means that my body has no defense against bacterial infections. So if I get sick with a bacterial illness — sinus infection, abscessed tooth, whatever, as long as it’s bacterial — it could kill me. Fast.
Which means that death has kinda been on my mind a lot recently, too.
I am OK with this. I don’t feel like I’m being morbid or pessimistic. On the contrary, I feel like I’m looking at life with clear eyes. After all, everybody suffers now and then, whether it’s a stubbed toe or a major heartbreak, and, sooner or later, everybody dies. Nobody gets out of this life alive! Right?
Well, then. Here are my thoughts:
Not all suffering is bad or damaging. A lot of the time, it’s actually healing. That’s how the body works, and I think that’s how the heart works, too.
Suffering, both damaging and healing, always happens for a reason. Yes, I mean always . . . whether us little humans with our tiny brains can find the reason, or not. There’s always a reason. God wouldn’t make sense otherwise.
People always seem to learn something important when they suffer. I think for most people, that thing is patience. That’s what it’s been for me.
Considering the looming possibility of one’s death (I’m not being dramatic at all here) encourages an attitude of love! I love my life, my family, and my God more now that I know more concretely that God has the option of yanking me out of this existence at roughly a moment’s notice, or whenever He pleases. How beautiful my life is! How beautiful my husband and children are! How beautiful God is for placing me in these circumstances that help me grow in knowledge and love.
Did you ever watch the Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life? It’s like that: no matter how rough your life is, there is meaning and value in everything, whether you can see it or not. (If you’ve never watched it, please do.)
Final thought: God is love, and death is the end of the Christian’s journey to God, meaning that death is the leap we make to true love. It’s only scary until we embrace it.