It is Well- Redemptive Suffering
A few weeks ago, I went to lunch with a priest who is a very good friend of mine. We went to Crying Eagle to talk about life & catch up. We sat outside because it felt good; Lake Charles had a cold front (yes, anything under 85 degrees is a cold front in Louisiana). I ordered a burger and a cold beer. I remember laughing, sipping my beer, and thinking to myself, “life is starting to feel normal again. This is the first good meal I’ve had in a long, long time.” But, as our conversation quickly turned, I came back to the reality that life recently has been anything but “normal.” He began to talk about how he doesn’t know of a family that has gone through more in 2020 than mine, and he was right.
Six of my immediate family members contracted the coronavirus, with my mom being hospitalized multiple times. My father’s restaurant had been shut down for months, losing the only income in our home. Soon after my mom recovered from COVID, both her parents contracted the virus and eventually passed away in the span of 48 hours. Then, like so many others, hurricane Laura hit us hard. My family’s house was destroyed along with my home, which is one of my parent’s rent homes.
Multiple battles with COVID, two grandparents dying, a business shut down, and two homes destroyed. 2020 had taken its toll on me and my family.
You see, with redemptive suffering, in those moments we are the closest we could possibly be with our Creator. We come to understand the pain of the crucifixion, even if we don’t know it at the time.I’ve always been intrigued by the Paschal Mystery of Christ. That is the Life, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord. I think we all experience our own paschal mystery on a daily basis, but, too many times in my life, I have seen so many people angry at their life or the current struggles God gives them. To me, too many people seem to forget about the “death” part. They just want to experience “life” & “resurrection.” But what many don’t understand is that our growth, our spiritual growth, comes from death. That is to say, life and resurrection have no meaning without death. The Sermon on the Mount doesn’t mean as much without the Crucifixion. We HAVE to be thankful for the sufferings we endure in life sometimes, because otherwise the joys would have no meaning.
I understand many will say 2020 has been the worst year, and I won’t argue that. To me, 2020 has been one of the most beautiful years. In every heartache I have experienced, I have seen the love of Christ poured out more. To the naked eye, it may seem that my dad’s business being shut down was horrible, but I saw family meals together every night and the busyness of life slow down. When others would tell me how sorry they were to hear of everyone in my house fighting the virus, I saw Christ-like service in action with us helping each other and taking care of one another. When I had to experience a funeral for both of my grandparents, others may have seen pain, but I saw joy. I saw it in rekindling relationships with cousins, even to the point of making a GroupMe so we can all play games together online and use it to talk to each other pretty much every day since the funeral. Lastly, when others saw two broken homes, I saw a new beginning. I saw love and hard work put into new homes, which is something I’ll think of and take pride in every time I step into those homes one day soon.
You see, suffering is not a choice. It is not up to us. We do not get to decide when God will throw a monkey wrench into our everyday lives. That is not our choice, but we will always have the choice to embrace the suffering and look at it as an opportunity to find the good. And I promise, my friends, there is always more good than bad.
That day at Crying Eagle with my friend was just another conversation.
It was just another beer.
And 2020 has been just another year, filled with God’s graces and opportunities to grow in our sufferings.
I’ll raise a glass to that.
-John Dalton, Cowboy Catholics Senior