‘Tis the “gift-giving season” so when I read the following quote the other day it stuck with me…
Pain makes me dependent on God for everything. It keeps me with Jesus. I can’t do it without Him. Pain is a gift, a kind of security to keep me from becoming proud or arrogant or taking credit for what God is doing.” –Mother Angelica (Founder of EWTN Catholic Television Network)
Pain = a gift?
Many of the saints of the Church I’ve read about recently truly grasp this concept. They get that there is grace in suffering and yes, they even consider their pain and suffering a gift. Although I’ve not lived a life of heroic virtue, Mother Angelica’s words are an accurate description of how I’m learning to view pain in my own life.
Pain drives me to my knees in total dependence on and desperation for my Jesus. I haven’t experienced great physical pain in my life so for me it’s more the emotional and psychological pain that causes me to fall on my face before God. And even that pain is nothing in comparison to the pain and suffering of so many I know.
Without pain I am capable of becoming self-reliant, forgetting just how helpless I am apart from His grace and mercy. Without pain I often forget that I need a healer, The Healer, to heal my soul of it’s sinfulness and selfishness. Sometimes (often) it’s my self-reliance that brings about pain as I experience the consequence of my own sin. Regardless of the source of my pain, in it I am drawn closer to Jesus. And anything that draws me closer to Jesus is, in the end, a precious gift of grace.
In my pain…
- I am broken and humbled. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18).
- I identify with Him. Like Jesus offered up His suffering I can offer up my own pain and suffering. “I want to know him…and share in the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Philippians 3:10)
The gift of pain doesn’t arrive in some pretty package wrapped with a beautiful bow. But it’s a gift of grace none-the-less. Of course, I have not arrived at the place where I always see my pain as a gift. No, in much of my pain I still go “kicking and screaming” before I humbly fall to my knees at the foot of the cross. I wish this were not so but that is where I am in my journey.
My 15 year old nephew, Patrick, is a talented competitive swimmer. He’s always striving to cut seconds, tenths of seconds and even hundredths of seconds from his race time. It takes discipline and focused effort. He’s aware of those things which slow him down –be it his form in the water or his habits outside of the pool. I want to do the same as I run this race for Jesus.
Saint Paul says in 1st Corinthians 9:25, “Everyone who competes goes into strict training.” I need to go into strict training. In my “response time” to Jesus and the trials or painful experiences that come my way I hope to shave off time. I want to be aware of those things that keep me from running first to Jesus in the midst of my pain. I want to avoid running toward others things and people to alleviate my discomfort before I run to Jesus.
Christ’s pain and suffering were a gift he willingly received for us. I pray it takes less and less time for me to see that my pain is a gift too– a gift of suffering that causes me to depend on Jesus and become more like Him.
Dear Jesus, in my pain let me run to you.
Let me see it as an oppportunity
to offer up a sacrifice of praise instead fleshly complaints.