Pain is Our Friend

Most of us spend most of our lives trying to avoid pain, with good reason. Suffering is not necessarily redemptive, nor is experiencing discomfort or loss in itself admirable. Acceptance of pain is another matter, and as Holy Week approaches it may be useful to consider where we are on our Lenten journey. Pain is our friend, because it reveals to us truths we might otherwise reject or never even come to know. It opens us up to that which is above and beyond our power to control; and Lent is very much about ceding control over our lives to God in ways that we don’t dare at other times of year.

If our prayer isn’t making us feel the pain of God’s absence — and even more, the agony of his presence — are we still too focused on ourselves, on what we do/say in prayer, rather than stretching out to embrace the mystery of God’s silence? If our fasting isn’t making us feel hunger, are we playing at sacrifice — giving up little things in order to avoid the greater surrender of self which can seem so daunting? If our almsgiving doesn’t hurt, is it because we are limiting our giving to what we think we can comfortably manage, rather than letting God determine what the measure of our giving should be?

The trouble about asking these questions is that it can induce guilt or scrupulosity, but that is not my intention. I think Holy Week is so intense, so full of Christ’s pain, that it can be overwhelming. We can be numbed at second-hand, as it were, and perhaps miss the point. It is not Christ’s death that redeems us; it is his obedient acceptance of that death. In these few days before Palm Sunday, it would be good to reflect on the difference. I still say that pain is our friend, but only because Christ has made it so by first embracing it himself as a necessary part of his loving obedience to the Father.

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15 thoughts on “Pain is Our Friend”

  1. Very, very powerful. I shall pray with this for some time. Thank you for sharing from your own experience. It’s good to hear from you again.

  2. Thanks for this timely reflection, Sister.
    I continue to pray for you as you await the results of your tests. I have my 2nd round of chemo later today.

  3. Thank you Dame Catherine, a powerful reflection, particularly given your own situation. My prayers for you today and always.

    I was two weeks ago diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Not unexpected as there is a family history of it. My father died from complications arising from it and both of my siblings have been diabetic for some years. I had hoped to avoid it, but it wasn’t to be.

    There’s no suffering involved, just taking additional tablets and amending my chaotic diet to a more sensible regime and taking more exercise as losing some weight will help.

    I’ve known several people who suffered agonizing pain from injuries on chronic disease, and have been amazed at their fortitude in dealing with its consequences for them and their carers. I don’t know whether their acceptance is through accepting Christ’s suffering and sharing it with him, but surely having read your post today, there must be a tie in? Unfortunately I’m unable to ask the question because they’ve subsequently died.

    I just hope that I, if I ever suffer pain in the way that they did, that I will remember your words here and offer it back to Christ whose sacrifice would far outweigh anything that I’d undergo.

    • U.K. Viewer, diabetes is a disease near and dear to us as Harold was diagnosed as late onset Type 1 ten years ago. While you’re right in saying you aren’t experiencing pain at this time all the more reason to keep on top of your testing. We’ve dealt with a few complications, but far easier to manage than it was before the invention of blood glucose test devices. Wishing you and your Missus all the best as you adjust to this new normal, will light a candle for your intentions at Mass this weekend!

  4. Fortunately I haven’t really been introduced to Pain as my friend yet. He’s someone I see living down the road and he is a companion to a few people I know. I dread the day he comes knocking at my door.But when he does come, I hope I can welcome him.
    Prayer and best wishes for a speedy return to perfect health Sr Catherine. >

  5. Dear Sister.
    I too am in my second round of chemo and so bring Simon with me on the journey as I pray. And indeed, acceptance and destination make move suffering to mere pain which Our Lord not only accepted but stretched out His arms to embrace.
    When I think about what we have as common experiences, pain is first among them, and much of what we do is a vain attempt to avoid it at almost any expense and so pain becomes all the more costly.

    More and more, I see my pain as the cost of the Prodigal in his journey home. A life that squandered everything but home itself.

    I return now to the Father, bruised and shamed by my foolishness, but hoping that when I arrive at that once familiar gate it will swing wide and I will feel the embrace of forgiveness that I do not deserve but awaits nonetheless.

  6. We share the pain of F. Frans van der Lugt, Jesuit: our Dutch priest, Jesus discipel till his cruel death. We don’t talk about it, write and pray.
    Thy will be done, he followed Jesus till Calvary.

  7. Still keeping you in our prayers, as well as Sister Lucy. Praying for the others on this site who are also dealing with health concerns, haven’t forgotten you.

  8. Thank you for your poignant, thought provoking and challenging words. And… Welcome back. You, Quietnun and Brother Duncan remain in my prayers. God bless you all.

  9. Many many thanks for this – a very challenging post at this stage in Lent and preparing for Holy Week. Prayers continue for you. It’s lovely to see you back – but I hope you are not trying to do too much just now.

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