Presence of God
O Lord, teach me to suffer with simplicity, without useless concentration on self, but in total abandonment to Your divine will.
I. The secret of learning to suffer in a virtuous way consists chiefly in forgetting oneself and one’s sorrows and in abandoning oneself to God.
The soul that is absorbed in its own sufferings and concentrates its whole attention on them, becomes unable to bear them serenely and courageously. "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof" (Mt. 6, 34), said Jesus, thus teaching us to bear calmly, day by day, moment by moment, whatever sorrows and crosses God places in our path, with no thought of what we suffered yesterday, no worry about what we shall have to endure tomorrow. Even when our suffering is intense, let us not exaggerate it, nor attach too much importance to it; let us not foster a morbid tendency to nurture our sorrow, to ponder over it, weighing and analyzing it under every aspect. To act in this way would result in the paralysis of our spirit of sacrifice, of our ability to accept and to act, and would make us useless to ourselves and to others. One who is oversensitive and preoccupied with his own suffering, often becomes insensible and indifferent to the suffering of others.
In order to resist these selfish tendencies which have been rightly defined by Father Faber as "the worm of Christian sorrow," we must forget ourselves, go out of ourselves and our own sufferings, become interested in the sufferings ofothers and endeavor to alleviate them. This is a very effective way to regain in times of discouragement the strength to bear our own crosses. We should be mindful of the truth that we are never alone in suffering; that if our sufferings are great, there are always those who suffer incomparably more than we. Our troubles, often enough, are but a drop compared to the sea of sorrows in which mankind is engulfed, and are practically nonentities in comparison with the Passion of Jesus.
Those who are overly concerned with their own troubles eventually become exasperated by them. Drowned in their sorrows, they stifle every impulse to generosity. By contrast, those who know how to forget themselves, maintain their equilibrium, and take greater thought for others than for themselves. They are always open to charity and generosity toward God and their neighbor. These are simple souls who, because they are unmindful of themselves, can bear suffering magnanimously and derive much prof it for their own sanctification.
II. Despite all our efforts to escape our own misery and to forget our troubles, we may go through moments of such profound anguish, such impenetrable darkness, that our poor soul does not know how to emerge from it—especially when the horizon, instead of becoming brighter, grows darker and more threatening. At such times there is only one thing to do: to make a leap in the dark, abandoning ourselves entirely into God’s hands. We are so helpless and weak that we always need some place of refuge; if we are to forget ourselves and stop thinking about our own concerns, we shall need someone who will sustain and think of us. This Someone is God, who never forgets us, who knows all about our sufferings and our needs, who sees how weak we are, and who is always ready to come to the aid of those who take refuge in Him. Of course, we can look for a certain amount of consolation and help from creatures, but let us not deceive ourselves; people will not always understand us, nor will they always be at our disposal. But if we turn to God, we shall never be disappointed; even if He does not alter our situation or take away our troubles, He will console our hearts interiorly, in secret and in silence, and will give us the strength to persevere.
"Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Ps. 54, 23). This is the attitude of abandonment which we should have in times of suffering, and which we should intensify as our sorrows increase. If our spirit of abandonment is proportionate to the depth of our sufferings, then we shall not lose their merit.
Many souls exaggerate their sufferings, dramatizing them because they cannot see God’s paternal hand in them, because their faith in His divine Providence is not sufficiently strong; and therefore, they are unable to abandon themselves to Plim with complete trust. If our life and all its events, even the most painful ones, did not rest in God’s hands, we should have reason to fear; but since everything is always in His hands, our fears are groundless and we should not be dismayed. A soul who is confident in God and abandons itself to Him can remain calm in the midst of great trials, can accept even tragic occurrences with simplicity, and suffer serenely and courageously, because it is always supported by God.
"O Lord, grant that I may never cease to turn to You, and to look only at You. In consolation or desolation I shall run to You, stopping at nothing else; I shall run so quickly that I shall have no time to look at anything, nor to see the things of earth, because my pace will be so rapid. Therefore, out of love for You, I shall spurn pleasure, repose, dependence upon the judgment of men, satisfaction in their approval, dread of physical discomfort, sadness of spirit, and success or failure. In a word, I shall spurn everything that is not God.
"I realize that my crosses have been permitted and willed by You, my God, to teach me to trust in You in spite of everything.
"O God, be my sole strength in fear, weakness, and distress; be my confidant, or rather my confidence. Divine Guest, dwelling within me, on the throne of my heart, abide with me as my protector; You alone have dominion and power over my whole being; You alone are its love!
"Why should I worry or fear? All is Yours, O God, and You will take care of my wants and provide for them. You are infinite Love, and You love the works of Your hands more than they can know and love themselves. Who would dare question Your power, or the loving, providential care You bestow on Your creatures from all eternity, and with the efficacy of Your love?
"I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust, and without anxiety, fear, or calculation" (Bl. M. Therese Soubiran).
Topics in this meditation:Suffering
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