Don't Ask Why

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A few years ago I learned to stop asking “why” about suffering.  A Jesuit priest said simply, “It is part of the human condition.”  When he said that, it was not a revelation to me, but rather an awakening or acceptance of that truth.  I am thinking about that truth again as I watch friends suffer with serious illnesses.

dont ask why

All of them are young, under fifty. Two have cancer and one has a host of chronic illnesses that defy treatment and dumbfound doctors.

This week my friend with chronic illnesses had to be admitted to the hospital with mild pneumonia.  We had a long visit with tears and laughter.  What struck me is how she told me how many people have a standard for her feelings and do not want to hear about feelings which they do not think she should express.

Right now she is angry and very tired.  For the last year she has spent most of her time in hospitals and in bed.  She is suffering and trying so very hard to make the best of it, be positive, and figure out what God wants her to learn from all of this.  She stays close to Mary in prayer and draws comfort from her.  She has a Mary statue that lights up by her bedside, even in the hospital.

While I don’t ask “why,” I do ask God how I can help ease her burdens.  I provide comic relief, a shoulder to cry on, and a glimpse into my “normal” life.  It is not always easy or convenient to be with my friend, but it is always important.

In my humanness I want to turn away and avoid the pain.  Her suffering reminds me to be grateful.  When a person says, “All I want to do is go to the grocery store and cook dinner for my family”, I am reminded to be thankful for ability to tackle the long to-do list.  My complaining over my life pales in the face of her true suffering.

Suffering often makes us uncomfortable.  We want a quick fix, a pat comment, and we want to move on to the next thing.  Sadly, suffering cannot be fixed with Band-Aids.  It requires our presence.

Walking with someone in their suffering helps us to be become better people if we let them lead us.  It requires patience and the putting aside of self to be present to those in need.

Maybe the test of a Christian is not to ask “Why” in the face of suffering, but “How can I help?”

Copyright 2013 Deanna Bartalini

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About Author

Deanna Bartalini is a wife of almost 30 years and mother of two adults. She work as a Director of Faith Formation in sunny south Florida. Walking with people on their faith journeys is the most satisfying part of what she does. She spends her free time reading, writing, cooking, sewing, crafting and whatever else catches her eye. Deanna's personal goal in life is to always be "notlukewarm" (Rev 3:16) . Find Deanna at her blog, Notlukewarm, at New Evangelizers, on Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

2 Comments

  1. Loved this. Asking “why” doesn’t help very often, but “How do you want me to serve You?” or “What do You ask of me, Lord” can help tremendously. Great article.

  2. What a tender reflection about something human nature often wants to avoid. Suffering is coupled with such a sense of “alone-ness” that it’s good to be reminded how very importance our simple presence can be. Thank you Deanna and bless you as you struggle through your friends suffering. Blessings on your day!

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