The Strength of Your Suffering
It’s February 3rd and I have to say, some of you have been killing it with those New Year’s resolutions. I’ve been following the Someday Wellness Facebook page along with the Someday is Now challenge; Amanda and Rebecca have been calling you out to get things done. For a lot of you, you’ve gone all in. You are changing your someday. So, if for the past 31 days you’ve been a better you, YOU ROCK! Celebrate you.
But I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t, you are in my zone right now, and it is okay. If you’ve been riding the struggle bus like I have, shout Amen sister, because it’s been rough! I’ve needed more than just a little bit of Jesus to get through this one. I’ve been in calling all saints and angels mode…
My New Year did not ring in bright and shiny this year. Forget resolutions. For the fourth year in a row I spent my Christmas break battling stomach bugs. After missing not one, but two family Christmases, I couldn’t wait for a getaway cruise for my brother’s wedding. Glorious? Check. That is when I was in denial that I was coming down with something brutal. The family family bonding I had that week consists of moments I will cherish for a lifetime, but one week back and I landed myself an expensive, chauffeured ride to the ER and a four day stay in a fine luxury “hotel” where the staff catered to my every need. My ticket in? Hypoxia, bi-lateral pneumonia and elevated d-dimer levels with potential for blood clots after traveling.
I’m a true optimist at heart so finding the silver lining is usually my specialty, but these past few weeks it’s been tough. It’s not that I’ve been ungrateful by any means, I’ve trained myself enough to recognize gratitude, but when you’re watching your sweet little girl cry her eyes out because she’s scared mommy isn’t coming home or is going to be different when she does, it tears at you. Not to mention the way that pain and discomfort wipe your mind clean of all positive intentions you may have possessed of being a pleasant and upbeat human being. Throw in the ridiculous guilt I put on myself for taking off work. Mix in feeling silly for having to be transported via ambulance to the hospital. Add in the negative thoughts that steadily creeped into my consciousness about what parents or students might say when I returned and was behind for weeks on end, despite my knowing how absurd it was to even consider anything but my own health, and you’ve got the start of an out-of-sorts mess of a human being. While the Rachel Hollis in my mind was screaming, “Other people’s opinions are none of your business!” I struggled to silence that voice of other people’s approval that has been a part of me for so long, even though I’ve long since learned to move past it.
In the midst of all this I found myself clinging to a belief I hold so dearly, which is to never waste a moment, no matter how undesirable it may appear. I remember when I was in elementary school and participated in a bike-a-thon. I wasn’t that old, but even then my mother had instilled in me the very Catholic belief that I should offer up my suffering. Lap after lap I went on reciting, just breathe, just breathe, you’re doing this and it’s going to save someone. As I gasped for air just a few short weeks ago these same words rang true in my head.
Just Breathe. Offer it up. Don’t waste your suffering.
But how do you know when enough is enough? Where is the fine line between embracing your suffering in silence and trusting that God will use that to ease someone else’s pain, and you winding up dead? I mean, I guess the obvious answer is to use your judgement and don’t be an idiot. Don’t try to be a martyr. But seriously, how many of you reach for the Tylenol bottle at the first sign of a headache? Do you seek to end the source of pain immediately? Do you embrace the suck, so to speak, until you reach your limit? Where do you draw the line when it comes to physical and emotional pain, or do you even know your own understanding of how valuable the opportunity of suffering can be?
To be clear here, I am NOT suggesting you allow yourself to get sick/hurt to the point of danger, or to submit yourself to mistreatment for the sake of embracing suffering, but it is important to consider what message God might be able to send you in your discomfort. By day two in the hospital I was mentally drained. Sleeping had been very difficult for over a week as I couldn’t rotate from my back, and with vital checks and blood draws at all hours of the night, my slumber in my hospital bed was near non-existent. Grateful that at the end of day two I was given the chance to shower, I embraced the opportunity, though I was fearful knowing how difficult it had been to stand, even for a minute or two.
My shower lasted mere minutes, but it was agonizing. Even with help, the pure act of remaining upright in a chair took every ounce of energy I had. As I felt my heart quickening to make up for the lack of oxygen that was pulsing through my veins, and the weight of air in my lungs grew heavier, I kept repeating, don’t waste your suffering.
Suffering, though not enjoyable, contains joy for those who choose to see the beauty of it.
In those moments, although the mental capacity it took to take a simple breath was beyond what I could have imagined, I was able in some small way to imagine how Christ must have felt as pain rippled through every part of his being as he hung, failing to exhale, on the cross upon which he died. A sorrowful, excruciating, humiliating death, that brought about such sadness, and yet, such joy.
Every day we are given opportunities to embrace suffering. Moments in which we can grow closer to Christ and to God. Sure, some people probably think I’m nuts. I sometimes take the blame for things that are out of my control or that I didn’t do -thank you St. Thérèse of Lisieux for teaching me the “little way.” I complain far too often, but generally embrace the physical pains that I have grown accustomed to having. I persistently ask God to give me suffering that might break someone I love or even a stranger, and I actually believe that it works. In fact, I’d argue that any momma that has breastfed can attest to that one. (I can’t even count the number of times I had a sick baby pass their cold to me and clear up in a matter of days while I went on sick for weeks.) Yet, crazy or not, I continue to believe that God hears my prayers and knows my limits. When I cry out that enough is enough, the pain, whether physical or emotional might not end immediately, but there is definitely a wave a relief. A reprieve in which I can gain my bearings and prepare myself for the next round, knowing that He’s got my back.
These past several weeks, though I’ve missed mass repeatedly, I’ve been summoned to look at the cross and recognize once again that strength comes in the suffering. If your New Year, new you isn’t all you had hoped, you better believe that tomorrow is an opportunity to start anew.
Every time you get kicked down, God is cultivating you to rise from the ashes as the best, bad-ass version of yourself you can be. Listen for Him in the moments you want to fall to pieces, I promise He’s there.
The silence isn’t always a void to your prayer, sometimes that’s just Him telling you to hang on a little longer because there’s more to offer in that moment of hell than your seeing. Each day you suffer, you strengthen not only your own soul, but you inspire the hearts of those around you to embrace their own mishaps, knowing that they too will rise in control of their Someday if they’re willing trust the process and trust in God.
Much Love, Ky
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