Born to Trouble as Sparks Fly Upward

This proverb is true. I’m not mocking pessimism, nor am I being pessimistic. Count on trouble–it’s a really safe bet! Is your vehicle running well? It won’t be; in every material way, it’s presently deteriorating. Are you healthy? You won’t be; relatively soon, worms will find you nourishing. Either you won’t have enough money or the money you have will bring unforeseen problems. Either you’ll have too much time or you’ll feel pulled in too many directions at once. You’ll feel lonely too often or you won’t get enough time to yourself. “Sure sounds pessimistic.” But no.
As a Christian, viewing suffering as a means of purifying us of vice and strengthening our character, I accept it. “Well allow me to help you, then, on your road to sanctification–I’ve got a hammer here, ready for your thumb.” Ah, I didn’t say I look for suffering, and I’m not a masochist. Having placed my life in God’s hands, I accept what comes, when I can’t do anything about it, believing he turns everything to the good for those who love him. I endeavor to “count it all joy.” In suffering I look to Jesus, rely on him, developing intimate friendship. When all is well, concupiscence often leads me to relying on and focusing on just myself–I’m all that! Suffering is fertile soil, when God is gardening, for growing humility and empathy.  Finally, my hope is in the resurrection, when death and sorrow will be no more–“everything’s going to be OK.” If you live without this hope, good luck to you in this infinite darkness.
Seeing life as an adventure is like taking a motorcycle on the trails. One inspects the bike for fluids and air and for anything that might break. One brings tools and some parts for the inevitable. One reads up and watches videos on how to manage the berms and the woops, mud, thick sand, steep inclines and declines…. Have trail maps, digital and paper, with you–in a waterproof pack. Always ride with a trusted friend, not alone. Wear the right gear and have healthy food and drinks on hand. You get the idea. Plan carefully for maximizing fun and minimizing suffering (wasted time, annoying inconveniences, broken body or bike parts). Even so, I’ve been stranded in the forest overnight–cold, moist, dark, lost. One can avoid all this by skipping the adventure–only to find other problems nipping at one’s heals. Life is an adventure. Accept it. Those cold, moist, dark nights, lost and stranded in the forest, they make great stories to laugh over with my sons; they strengthened me socially, physically, spiritually. “No pain, no gain,” right? This is a trivial example, but walking with God through suffering, as an adventure, handles the great struggles as well. Big or small, find the good in it. President Lincoln believed most people are “about as happy as they choose to be.”
No, I don’t know why my brother died young. Why did a host of life’s disappointments turned out as they did? “I don’t need to understand; I just need to hold his hand.” “How childish!” Yes–the faith of a child. It does make sense, though; why fret over what one can’t change, when that only leads to more sorrow?  What suffering might be just around the corner? The fear of suffering is often far more debilitating than any circumstance is in itself. Love casts out that fear, allowing one to appreciate the good in anything, and to forgive that one who’s misusing his freedom to your temporal harm.  This didn’t prevent Jesus from sweating blood in the garden, before his execution, though. Psychological pain is real, it hurts! As Christians, Jesus promised us participation in his suffering in carrying one’s own cross–redemptive suffering–it’s not meaningless.
Suffering stemming from guilt, though, isn’t meaningful or redemptive. The sorrow unto death isn’t Godly sorrow. Sorrow and suffering, from God’s hands, if accepted, leads to purity and life. If you’re suffering from guilt, humbly confess your sins, resolve not to continue sinning, do your penance, and bask in being forgiven. Whatever vice one suffers from, there’s a counter virtue that alleviates it: for bitterness, thankfulness; for jealousy or envy or resentment, love and good-will; for lusts and concupiscence , self-control….  Deep ungodly suffering, from having placed your soul in Satan’s hands through persistently committing grave sin or from performing an occult practice, calls for deliverance or exorcism.

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