Surrendering to Suffering

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The reality of growing older or being sick is that there are things that you simply can’t do on your own. You need help. But the rub is that you have to learn to ask for it and then you have to take the help.

I had to have surgery recently and because of it, I have had to sit back and let others do for me what I would normally do for myself. I hate being incapacitated. I especially hate relying on anyone to do something for me, because (yes, this is very control-freakish thing) they won’t do it the way that I would do it.

I was really surprised by the level of disability I would experience in those first few days after the surgery. I expected to be lying around, and needing to be tended, but nothing prepared me for the lack of focus, the inability to pray and the sheer exhaustion of just trying to breathe around the huge lump in my throat.

I would check in with my friends on social media and see that they were suffering in other ways and think that the least I could do is to pray for them. Unfortunately, that’s when I discovered that I couldn’t keep my focus. I felt defeated and wondered what I could possibly offer to God in my current state. That’s when it came to me: I can offer my suffering for someone else.

Each morning I pray the Morning Offering:

Oh Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I offer you all my works, prayers, joys and sufferings of this day,

for the intentions of your Sacred Heart,

in union with the holy Mass offered throughout the world today,

in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates,

for those who will die this day, for the holy souls in purgatory,

and in particular, for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.

Even though I have prayed this prayer off and on for years, I never really realized what it meant. This is what people mean when they say, “Offer it up.”

I always hated that phrase, but that’s because I didn’t understand. That pithy little phrase is not meant to be dismissive of the suffering you’re enduring. It’s meant to help you put it into perspective. It’s meant to help you realize that Jesus, who did nothing to deserve the pain and suffering of his Passion took it on anyway, not for His sake, but for ours.

When we offer our suffering for someone else, we become little Christs (Christians), as we should be. Even in my weakened state I can make an offering to God to help someone else who either can’t pray, or won’t pray for themselves by offering up my lack of focus, my pain, even my little joys.

The amazing thing is that this sacrifice comes back to you. The pain and discomfort don’t seem so pointless and unfair. Instead, that pain is being given for someone else and suddenly, because the effort is turned outward, it becomes constructive instead of destructive. That suffering becomes the prayer. No words are necessary.

I can tell you exactly when I realized that the other people praying for me were helping me with all the heavy spiritual lifting. I was trying to pray the rosary and couldn’t focus long enough to say the opening prayers. My brain wandered off to some fictitious scenario where I was going to have ice cream to eat.

When I caught up with my thoughts, I was bitterly disappointed with myself. I was some sick person, I couldn’t even pray properly. But somewhere, in the grey mist of my thoughts, I realized that that’s why so many people were praying for me. They were helping to carry me along the path. I’d have my turn to pray for them, too. At that moment, it was my turn to be carried.

All I had to do was surrender.

Copyright 2014 Katie O’Keefe

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About Author

Katie O’Keefe, mother of two and Oma of two, is a great fan of nifty new tools and dusty old books. After working for 25 years as a musician, Katie decided to go back to school and graduated with the BA in Philosophy from Ohio Dominican University in 2015. You can find more of her writing at The Backs of People’s Heads and Baby Faces.

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