Love One Another! 8/2007 → Suffering and Love
Who am I? I am a free woman! Free from inner darkness, impotent rage, and sadness, which had plagued me for so many years.
For six years I have been afflicted with a sickness. Though it is not a terminal sickness, it is an extremely vexing one, for it makes normal living impossible. When I fell ill, I had to give up all my dreams and plans for the future. I was forced to abandon my passions and interests. I was furious with God, for it seemed to me that He taken everything away and left me with nothing. He took away my joys, my achievements, my hopes. All I was left with was a great reservoir of bitterness and inner sadness, which poisoned my heart — depriving it of all hope. I became a vegetable. Existence meant vegetation! I felt like a butterfly enmeshed in her cocoon, unable to spread her wings. For years I struggled in my inner “prison,” constantly badgering and beseeching God for help — any kind of help. I could see how anger was destroying me. On my own I could not resist the power of my feelings. Only God could free me.
The Lord began to heal me by directing me to the source of my problem. He helped me to put my finger on my wound: my unwillingness to forgive Him and myself, and my resistance to His will. Not with my head, but with my heart! I knew very well what I knew, but my heart was constantly conducting a stubborn rearguard action, struggling, straining, and resisting. I refused to accept reality as it was.
Then the Lord sent me a dream. That dream showed me the extent to which I felt wronged and rejected by Him, and how greatly I needed Him. I desperately wanted Him to take me up in His arms and heal my wounded heart. In that same dream I saw a woman in a wheelchair. She must have been about forty-five or fifty years old. Something told me that she held a special place in the Lord’s heart. Two weeks later, while praying before the Blessed Sacrament at night, I met her in the flesh, exactly as she had appeared in my dream. She was a nun suffering from multiple sclerosis. She was bound to a wheelchair and could perform almost no activity at all. From the many long conversations that I subsequently held with her on the subject of her suffering (incomparably greater than mine), I learned that the most important thing in life was not physical mobility, but love. A love that allowed one to rise above all natural limitations; a love that could make a gift of itself to Christ; a love that kept its gaze ever fixed on the Master.
That dream and my meeting with the nun set in motion the process of self-forgiveness and resignation to God’s will. That sounds strange. How can you forgive yourself, let alone God? After all, He is Abba, our Father. He cannot do us any harm! Why then had my heart harbored so much resentment (so long repressed) toward so wonderful a Father? Whence came these feelings of anger, bitterness, and rancor? I knew that you needed to come to terms with people who had done you harm, for even the smallest residue of bitterness can turn a human heart into an arid waste. I knew that unconscious feelings were a powerful force capable of destroying one’s humanity.
For a good while I wondered how I could forgive God — not by an act of the will (I had already done that) but with my heart. How could I accept and receive with love that which for me was a most difficult gift — my sickness? I decided to write God a letter. I addressed Him as my “wrongdoer,” whom I accused of “hurting” me; but I also addressed Him as my “victim,” as someone whom I had wronged as well. I addressed a similar letter to myself. Such letters of reconciliation represent the final stage of the Live Hope Christian therapy program. Soon after writing these letters, my cocoon burst open, and my relationship with the Lord turned completely around.
No sooner had I forgiven God and myself than the curtain of darkness began to fall away. A sense of joy and freedom began to stretch the walls of my heart. I felt hope reborn within me. New dreams, desires, and plans began to take shape. God helped me to see myself in a totally new light — not as one rejected but as one loved unconditionally by the Creator.
Thanks to my act of forgiveness, God was now able to work within me — healing not only my heart, but also my body. The psychological and spiritual healing began the process of a partial physical healing. Attending last summer’s spiritual retreat organized by the Movement of Pure Hearts was the final stage of my inner struggle. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament at night, I came to understand why the Lord has allowed me to suffer in this way. God showed me that my suffering had meaning.
The Cross — regardless of the size or kind — is the Lord’s mysterious way of drawing you to Himself. He desires to hold you to His heart. Even though His embrace can be extremely painful, He is there to prevent you from falling from that cross and harming yourself even further. Forgive! Never stop forgiving those who hurt you, who provoke in you feelings of resentment, anger, or hatred. Forgive everyone, be it a neighbor, a friend, your mother, your father, or a total stranger. Forgive continually, that you may live life in its fullness. Forgiveness is not a feel-good emotion. It is above all an act of the will, an act of love. Do not fear pain and suffering. Suffering draws you ever closer to your Master, who heals the most hopeless cases. When you forgive, you enable God to enter the darkest, most sordid and noisome corners of your heart, which stand in such desperate need of light, purification, and healing — in a word, the Creator’s love.
Forgiveness releases you from your cage, enables you to spread your wings, to feel the wind of hope beneath them, and to take to the air. Forgive and accept with love whatever the Lord gives you. Though it may be a difficult gift, it is given to you that you may grow and mature. All suffering has a purpose, and, when accepted with love, it can transform even the hardest and most rebellious of hearts.
Although I have not received a miraculous physical healing and no doubt will continue to suffer for a good while yet (perhaps for the rest of my life), forgiveness and acceptance have gained for me something infinitely more important — my freedom. I have gained God and discovered His boundless love for me.
So I wish your readers the gift of forgiveness. May they bestow this gift upon others and so transform them and themselves into people of joy.