A man is standing over the hospital bed. He’s looking at his wife who is seriously ill. The doctor has just left and told the family that it would just be a matter of a few days. It had all happened so fast. Within two months here she was. A priest was called to anoint the woman. All the adult children are there. Some more accepting of the situation than others. All are in shock, though. The priest dutifully says the prayers and anoints the woman’s forehead and hands. The ceremony was over in a few minutes.
As the priest was leaving the hospital room the husband walked out with the priest. The priest offered condolences and said he would pray for his wife and for him and his family. Then the man started to cry and said to the priest, “Why? Why did this have to happen to my wife, she was a good person. Now me, that’s a different story. This all should have happened to me, not to her.” The priest then said, “Try not to look at this that way. God is not punishing your wife in this experience.” The man sort of nodded and walked back into the room. It didn’t seem that he was all that convinced of what the priest was saying.
We deal with suffering. Whether it’s personal or is happening to someone we love. And we can perhaps think the same way that this man in the hospital was thinking. Why is God doing this to me, or to my wife, or to my child; or whatever the case may be.
In Isaiah we heard: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” When we suffer it doesn’t mean that we are being punished by God. As if we could have prevented it by acting in a better way. We all know that bad things can happen to good people. What we are asked to do in the challenging moments of our life is to try and see things the way that God wants us to see them. Perhaps there is an aspect of the situation that we are not paying attention to. Maybe we are so intent on wanting everything fixed that we just throw our hands up in frustration. I am certainly not saying that the man in our little story should not be upset over the illness of his wife. But we can sometimes allow ourselves to fall into bad ways of thinking that lead us into more darkness.
As hard as it can be, we are asked time and time again, to surrender to God. This can be the beginning of the healing process. Bad thinking can only lead to anger and all the things that go with that. That’s not what Christ has in mind for us. That’s not how we are to live.
When we are baptized, we become members of God’s family. But that means that we should to our best to follow the teaching of Christ and to follow God’s commandments. But it also means that we don’t live lives filled with bitterness. Baptism is about new life. It’s about a new way of thinking and a new way of looking at life. It means that we live in hope and look forward to something better than what we see here and now.
God is not punishing us when we experience suffering. He could be calling us to look to Him. To pay more attention to him. And to ask for his help. Jesus says that we should listen to him so that we may have life. And no suffering, not even death itself, can conquer the new life that Jesus Christ is offering to each one of us. That offer that was first made at our baptism.
Let me leave you with this thought from Walter Ciszek: “The greatest grace God can give a man is to send him a trial he cannot bear with his own powers—and then sustain him with his grace so he may endure to the end and be saved.”