After she comforted her toddler after a sudden injury, Carmen Lappe came to a new realization about the meaning of suffering.
A recent weekend began with a trip to the emergency room with my two-year-old son Damien. Hopping around the living room like a bunny, he suddenly lost his balance and fell forward, hitting his head on the corner of our TV stand. It was evident by the sickening thud he had landed hard. I scooped him up into my lap, rocking back and forth in an effort to soothe his pain. I turned his head to inspect any damage, and what greeted my eyes was a gnarly gash and blood running from his head, down his neck, and beginning to lap at the collar of his shirt. Oh, Lord.
My efforts to clean the wound and apply a cool cloth were met with screams and tears. I wanted nothing more than to help Damien understand that my actions were for his good; to help prevent any infection and bring him comfort. My husband rushed home and immediately whisked him away to the ER. Thankfully, there was no evidence of a concussion and the wound was able to be closed with glue. The whole experience was undeniably jarring.
As I sat down with Morning Prayer a few days later, I was struck by the canticle epigraph: “God afflicts but only to heal.” The end of Lent felt like a veritable desert for me, filled with great personal struggles and unsure where God was in the midst of the pain. No matter how much or how often I prayed for deliverance, God seemed silent. Discouraged, I shared this with a very dear friend who helped me understand, particularly in light of Damien’s recent injury and sickness, how God moves within our trials.
As Damien sat on the hospital bed in the middle of the emergency room, crying out as the doctor applied glue to close the wound, he did not understand the actions of those around him. Yet what those actions said was, “I’m sorry. I know this hurts, but it must be done in order for you to heal.”
A week later, as Damien battled a particularly grueling bout with the stomach flu, I was struck by my actions that, while painful for him, were necessary for his healing. As I changed his diaper one morning, he cried out in pain from soreness and the coolness of the wipe. I softly whispered, “I’m sorry. I know this hurts, but it must be done.”
I’m sorry. I know this hurts, but it must be done.
In the midst of our own struggle or pain, can we hear these words whispered in our hearts by our loving God? For, while God does not cause the struggle or pain, He permits it for our good; for our sanctification.
Indeed, the doctor in the emergency room caring for my son could not simply take his wound away; there was a necessary, albeit painful, antidote for his injury. So, too, is it true for us with our own struggles, sins, or wounds.
What do you find yourself struggling with, friend? Where are you experiencing suffering that you wish the Lord would just take away?
A particular sin?
Disease or physical pain?
Dryness in your faith?
Suffering is painful, and we seem to always be searching for the quickest exit away from it, but if the sorrow of Holy Week and the supreme joy of Easter Sunday we just experienced can teach us one very important thing, it’s that suffering can be salvific. Sorrow can be saving. This is the essence of the Paschal Mystery: we fall so that we may rise! Jesus, the wounded healer, shows us the way; He is the way through our own suffering to glory!
Whatever you find yourself carrying that you prayerfully hope God, the Divine Physician, would simply heal or just take away once and for all, pause and ask yourself, “What does help look like? What am I asking for?” The asking and seeking is where he desires to heal you. Our Lord loves you deeply in the struggle! Keep asking. Keep seeking. He waits for you there.
We may never understand our struggles on this side of heaven, but God willing, when we make it there, rejoicing in the presence of the risen Christ and free from all suffering, we’ll be able to say with confidence, like Damien after a diaper change, “all clean!”
Copyright 2022 Carmen Lappe
Images: (top/bottom) Canva Pro; (center) copyright 2022 Carmen Lappe, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Carmen is a wife and mother of two in midwestern Iowa. She has a Master of Arts degree in Sacred Theology and has a special passion for writing about the grace of motherhood. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and exploring breweries and baseball stadiums across the country.