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Walking Our Faith: How to be of service to those who are suffering

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith

On Thursday, Mom turned 94. We had plans to have a party, and all the family would gather to celebrate her birthday with her friends. Mom has a lot of friends.

Unfortunately, Mom fell in her kitchen and broke her hip and her arm last month. And after a hip operation, she has spent the past month in a rehabilitation center.

She has struggled daily with pain management and discouragement because she has been unable to stand and walk using her walker. This is the obstacle that she must overcome if she wants to return to her apartment and independent living.



My mother is one of the strongest people I know. She has overcome open-heart surgery and numerous medical setbacks. I believe that somehow she will stand and walk again with her walker, and I believe she will return to her friends, her church and living in her apartment.

But it is also difficult for me to hear the pain and discouragement in her voice during our nightly phone calls because she would not be expressing these sentiments if they had not become truly unbearable.



And so each time I go to Mass and each time I join evening prayer and every moment in between, I pray for Mom. May I ask you to pray for my mom, too?

Mom lives in South Florida, and the local news is filled with the devastating developments in the collapse of the Surfside condominium, the souls that were lost, souls waiting to be found and the families that stand by helplessly heartbroken wishing there was something they could do to help those they love so dearly.

In our phone call, Mom spoke of those families who are suffering such a great loss, and she said, “I hope they don’t turn away from God. I hope they know that God loves them so much.” She continued to speak about holding onto God’s love in the midst of our suffering even when that idea seems absolutely impossible and contrary to our definition of a loving God.

And I realized that as much as she is worried about those families in Surfside, she is also describing her own spiritual struggles in the midst of her physical suffering.

Here she is a 94-year-old woman who spends every day praying and loving God and who treasures her independent life so dearly. Now she struggles to simply stand. I know this pain and her new physical limitations don’t make any sense to her in the midst of all her prayers for healing and restoration. And yet, she worries that others will lose their sense of God’s love in the midst of their own suffering.

At the end of our phone calls, Mom always prays for me. But since she has moved to the rehab center, she asks me to prayer for her. I fill those prayers with the touchstones of her special relationship with God’s Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, we can be lulled into a belief that if we live good lives and pray enough, we will be spared suffering and tears and broken hearts.

What I am witnessing with my mother and what I have seen in other people who I also consider saints, is that supposition is not true.

I do not understand why God allows my mother to suffer at this time in her life when she is frankly so frail. I pray with every breath I have that God will strengthen her legs and return her to the independent life she dearly loves.

In the midst of her suffering and uncertainty and discouragement, her love for God never wavers and her worry is not for herself but for others who are also suffering.

When I think of my mother’s suffering, I imagine a hurricane whose center is stillness and light. I believe that describes the relationship my mother has with God. In the midst of the chaos and pain of her days, there is at her center a steadfast certainty of God‘s love for her I believe that love embraces her and holds her and strengthens her.

I believe her experience of God‘s love in the midst of suffering is something none of us will understand. But we are not helpless to help. We may stand outside the storm, but we can hold them up with our prayers. Pray with and for those who suffer and know that God stands within the storm and holds our loved ones secure in his love.

Please pray for my mother, and please pray for the souls lost in Surfside and for their families that they will know God’s real presence and love for them now and forever.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. — Psalm 62:5-8

 


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