Recently my life has been pulled into two distinct and seemingly opposite realities. One is that we had perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at St. Bonaventure for Lent. I had three hours per week assigned to me but I also filled in for hours when others can not make it. Even when I am not there I live across the street and feel a great tug on my heart to be there all day.
The other direction tugging at me is the almost constant barrage of medical testing and appointments for my daughter Louisa and my son Max. This direction began as the exact opposite of the peaceful tugging of adoration, because it is filled with ups and downs and a doom of sadness, or at least a life full of questions without an answer.
At first, one was serving the other. I recovered from the exposure to suffering by exposing myself to the one who suffered for me. But each time I entered His presence I found myself weaker and more injured. It wasn’t a sustainable balance I was striking–basically letting myself drown in doubt, worry and sadness, and then letting the Lord resuscitate me.
One morning in particular I left adoration at 4am and by the time I grabbed my door knob at home, a mere 20 seconds later, I was completely filled with worry and doubt. There had to be a better way. The very next day the Lord responded with a question: “Do you have the courage to let love consume all?” I knew just exactly what he meant.
One of the worst parts of suffering are the questions:
- Will my daughter be ok?
- Will she walk?
- Will my son ever run like his brothers?
- Why did this happen?
- Could we have done something?
- Will I ever be happy again?
- What will the next test show?
- Why? Why? Who?
Much of suffering comes from over complicating life. We ask questions that we may very well deserve answers to, and we try desperately to relieve ourselves. While these are both reasonable and natural inclinations, are they totally necessary? What is absolutely necessary in any given situation? The answer: love. The only real necessity in life is that we love. We do not need answers, we do not need relief.
Sometimes they come, of course, but we are talking about absolute necessity. The absolute necessity of any given situation is that we love Jesus Christ and those in front of us: that we fill each moment with love.
There are many responses to suffering, and I have tried almost all of them:
- I have tried to run from it.
- I have tried to pretend it is not true.
- I have tried to drink it away, eat it away, work it away.
- I have also tried healthy ways of dealing with it.
- With great faith I pray that my son and my daughter will be healed. I have used hope, thinking: “in heaven we will all be new and healed,” hoping that will take the pain away.
Some of this gave me relief but I needed something more. The answer was to let love consume every single moment.
This is not an new idea. You can find versions of what I am saying in the thought of many saints. I have recently been convicted of this again by the writings of Jacques Phillipe. He says:
But the Holy Spirit takes a hand, and then: “What is God asking of me in all this?” Or: “Where are the most faith, hope and love to be found?” These are questions that have answers–if not at least for today. And that is enough.”
Finally in this solution I am finding peace and fulfillment. It is scary to wonder if my son will be healed. My response is to pour love into that moment. It is terrifying to wonder about my daughter’s future: my response is not to wonder, but to love. It is oppressing to look at a day that will be consumed by appointments, when I want to be here at the parish evangelizing. My response is to spend that day loving.
This is not ethereal or new age stuff where I am over simplifying this. It is simply responding to pain by suspending my demand for answers and relief and saying to the Lord: “how can I be faithful to you and love my best in this moment? This is also not sticking my head in the sand and not dealing with imminent realities. In fact, I would say I have received more real answers from this mode of life then trying to hash them out of other places. Letting love consume all has finally satisfied me. Those times I struggle now with the sadness and pain I have trained myself to ask “am I over-complicating this? Why can’t I just be faithful in this situation and abandon myself fully to God’s will without reserve?”
Recently, Amber and I were walking in to the boys’ room to tuck them in for bed. Before we entered we heard Max say to his brother Sam, “I wish I could stand and walk, Sam.” with Max getting older we’ve heard several of these statements and they usually just completely wreck me for days and days. This was not really different at first. It was like getting punched in the gut.
I was heartbroken and speechless. I just sat there until about 2 a.m. asking for answers and begging God for mercy. I thought about Max not getting to play basketball or be a soldier or live out his dreams like every other little boy. It was then that I came to myself and remembered my “safety” question “what is absolutely necessary?” and the answer came as it always does: Love. Love me and remain in my love.
This finally is an eternal solution, one that will last forever. God is teaching me the true meaning of love. There is no situation where it is not applicable and no thirst it can not quench. A life completely consumed by love is available to all of us. Those who have the courage to let every moment, situation, hurt, joy in convenience and breath be consumed by it will be eternally satisfied.
Faith will end in seeing. Hope will end in receiving but love never ends.
Dave VanVickle works as the Director of Evangelization at St. Bonaventure Church in Pittsburgh, PA. This article was originally published on his blog www.thesinnersguide.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org