AND A VOICE CAME FROM HEAVEN:
“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK
My Dear Parishioners:
Many times, people seek me out for grief counseling and to work through a traumatic experience. While I am not a trained counselor, I can listen and give some practical advice. Two books I highly recommend for understanding and processing pain are: A Path Through Suffering and The Path of Loneliness, both by the late author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot.
Elliot, a well-educated linguist, was the wife of Jim Elliot, who was martyred in the 1950’s along with four other missionaries by the tribe of natives they were trying to minister to in the jungles of South America. The many works Elliot wrote on suffering emerged not only from this tragedy, but also through other losses, such as the death of her second husband from cancer.
When going through suffering, it’s easy to dismiss the help and advice of others with the thought that they have no idea what they’re talking about. But with Elliot, the case is different. She went through loss, through suffering, through pain, and through loneliness. And instead of frantically seeking to push hurt aside and fill the painful void in our lives with other things, she counsels us to look up and to find “a refuge for our loneliness” in God. “To stop our frantic getting, spending, and searching,” she says in “The Path of Loneliness,” “and simply to look at the things God has made is to move one step away from despair. For God cares.”
If anyone had cause for bitterness over the loss and pain she endured, it was Elliot. Yet she tells us that “it is possible both to accept and endure loneliness (and by extension, all forms of suffering).” How do we do so? Elliot gives us the answer.
“In circumstances for which there is no final answer in the world, we have two choices: accept them as God’s wise and loving choice for our blessing (this is called faith), or resent them as proof of His indifference, His carelessness, even His nonexistence (this is unbelief).
Elliot obviously chose the first option, explaining she accepts her suffering as a gift from God and then gives it back to Him as an offering in return. That’s a foreign concept in our society today, not only because we are encouraged to play the victim—even when receiving the smallest of hurts & offenses—but because many Americans relegate God to a corner of their lives, or not at all.
But what if we tried Elliot’s approach to suffering? Instead of continually bemoaning our troubles—both public and personal—what if we accept them as a gift from God—a gift that, although painful at the time, could turn into beautiful character or other benefits further down the road? Doing so gives us a completely different lens to view the world through, and in a world that is increasingly broken and strewn with victims who only wallow in their suffering, a few individuals who choose to do the opposite will make a world of difference.
We should strive to be people of hope and of faith. St. Paul tells us to “Rejoice in Hope.” What beautiful words to live by in 2022!
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