Unleashed Book Club: Chapter 5



Welcome to the Unleashed Book Club! We’re reading Unleashed, by Sonja Corbitt.

-Unleashed Book Club 800 - CatholicMom.com copy

Several years ago, I felt the Holy Spirit tug at my heart while I was engaging in morning prayer. It was well before we were blessed with our two beautiful girls, and in many ways, I was in my spiritual infancy. Though my heart was receptive to God’s prompting, I remained somewhat reticent at the invitation I heard Him speak with gentle persistence:

Do you accept the cross I will give you?

He asked me a few times, and I received with increasing clarity that this new cross would entail tremendous suffering, which terrified me. I grappled with this haunting question for days, but my heart grew restless. The truth was clear: I could not ignore God’s call. And because I truly loved Him to the capacity of which I was able, I could not deny Him this request, this invitation.

Little did I know at the moment of my resolved yes to God’s question that the cross to which He referred would involve our daughters. Both of our children have different special needs: Felicity’s are sensory and psychological in nature, while Sarah was born with a very rare craniofacial condition.

All the while I prayed that we would be blessed with children, I never considered the possibility that the blessing would involve continuous struggles in our daily lives. The gift, of course, is the incredible joy of our daughters’ childlike wisdom and untainted love, but the cross is that my husband and I are asked for a particular level of dying to self that most other families may never face.

Two passages in this chapter struck – no, lanced – my heart as if they were words of prophecy that specifically pertained to my wrestling and suffering. First, Sonja Corbitt explained that the answers to my prayers for changing my life circumstances may, in fact, be that God is asking me to change instead. That wrestling with the desire that life would get easier somehow is met with a merciful, tender no from God.

He is asking more of me – and more of you, too. The “more” is hidden in the crosses we bear. It lies in the mystery of our struggle and strife. It is the hidden gem that can only be refined in the crucible of God’s love.

The second reflection that rested on my heart pertained to pain and suffering itself:

We see that pain and suffering are in the normal pattern of growth, and that avoidance causes sickness or sin. C.S. Lewis once said God shouts in our pains. ‘Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ And so it is. It teaches us to hear without the noise of words.

St. Peter tells us pain and suffering is cleansing. Those who willingly accept this important function of suffering experience something utterly astounding… (p.101)

Corbitt struck me with painful, powerful, and necessary words – words I had been attempting to circumvent through my cognitive temper tantrums of which (thankfully) only God and I were aware. I have particularly pondered the truth that suffering “is a normal pattern of growth,” “teaches us to hear without the noise of words,” and “is cleansing.” The finale is our intentional reception of our crosses.

Since I have become a mom of kids with special needs, I have lived these truths every day, without exception. I have never grown in character during the comfortable periods of my life, but rather in the times of tension, darkness, and frustration. That struggle – if I persevere in faith – is what leads me to a more tempered self-appraisal and refines the rugged edges of the virtues for which I strive. So suffering is, indeed, “a normal pattern of growth.”

Suffering also forces me into that school of silence and solitude. Without that sacred space, I am rendered hollow, and words ring fruitless to my heart. Words become idle chatter when I am experiencing intense emotional pain. In fact, noise – any noise – easily transforms into an unbearable cacophony that slowly erodes my spirit. So suffering is essentially an invitation to the desert – to exit our frenzied and often frivolous lifestyle and then to enter into that arid place devoid of purposeless banter and empty sounds. Silence beckons us to learn what lessons suffering offers to teach us.

Suffering is also cleansing. It sounds paradoxical that suffering could bring about healing, but it’s true. I have never been able to fully articulate the particular cross that patient and loving caregiving entails on a daily basis, and I’ve found that most people choose to believe that our family isn’t all that different from other families, anyway. So the cross I carry is very invisible and hidden, which makes it all the more excruciating to bear at times.

But the cleansing occurs when I unite my perpetual grief to the Paschal Mystery. My soul has become kindred to Jesus’ soul, and His wounds have truly healed my agony, strife, and sorrow. The veracity of Scripture, “By His stripes we are healed” (see Isaiah 53:5), is well-incorporated into my daily trials, especially when I feel the weight of my cross pressing upon me. Somehow Jesus heals me when I enter into my pain rather than run from it.

Finally, Jesus asks the universal question: Do you accept the cross I will give you? This wasn’t just a personal question from God to me, but rather it is a collective solicitation for every individual. He wants us to freely choose between acceptance or abnegation of our crosses. In essence, He is setting before us life or death and imploring us to choose life, so that we may live with Him in eternity (see Deuteronomy 30:19).


To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. When have I heard God beckoning me to accept my cross? Do I reject suffering or willingly participate in it?
  2. How has God healed or cleansed me in times of suffering?
  3. In what ways has pain taught me important life lessons or deepened my character?
  4. How can I say yes to God’s invitation today?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 6. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Unleashed Book Club page.

Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing


About Author

Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach. She is the co-author of From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph and Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers. Jeannie was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition and a dozen other podcasts and radio shows. She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief and parenting children with special needs. For more information on her professional services, visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com.


  1. Beautiful…just beautiful. I especially identified with the following parts: “So the cross I carry is very invisible and hidden, which makes it all the more excruciating to bear at times.” and your understanding, “That wrestling with the desire that life would get easier somehow is met with a merciful, tender no from God.” What I’m wondering and would welcome any help with is how suffering is related to prayers of petition. Many prayers of petition are requests and often fervent pleas to end suffering. Does this then conflict with acceptance of one’s cross? It is clear from the CCC paragraph 2633 that we are encouraged to call upon God in even our smallest needs. Should all prayers of petition to end suffering be accompanied by “yet not my will but thine be done”? Is that how we can demonstrate acceptance of the cross? I think that many Saints have sincerely prayed those words, and many even petitioned requesting suffering in order to be more firmly united to that (suffering) part of Christ’s life. I would love to hear from people who believe that they have accepted their crosses and how they got to that point. Does acceptance mean giving up hope that the cross will be removed? When things do seem hopeless, does acceptance mean that we stop praying for the miracle that could change it? (Also, I should just mention that I have not read “Unleashed,” I am just responding to this insightful post.) Thanks and God bless.

    • Sharon,
      I like all the questions you posted and honestly I just got my book but am not caught up. Your connection between crosses and hope really struck home and I recognized that I often feel this as well. Do you give up hope things will improve, or humbly pray for the skills and will needed to manage as best you can with the gifts you have? Maybe our hope is best directed at God’s ability to help us change? I am not sure and honestly, I now feel that I more questions! I guess this is a fantastic time to start getting everyone up and head off to mass – feeling blessed and hopeful that we can maybe contain our very wiggly, talkative 5 year-old!
      Have a blessed day –

      • Hi Paige,
        I don’t think giving up hope is ever what God wants for us, but He does want us to stop fruitlessly seeking to understand everything – circumstantially or otherwise – in our lives that may betwixt us in some way. Our hope is “anticipation of God’s promise,” so I keep that in my heart when I am in the midst of uncertainty (which is typically on a daily basis). When I read Scripture, I am promised so many things – spiritual healing, God’s protection and unconditional love, His Providential care (Matthew 6 is one of my all-time favorite verses). So hope is essentially what glues faith and love together, I think.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Thank you for your kind encouragement on my article here.
      Your reflections and questions are beautiful and important. I can only say generally that we must continue our prayers of petition to God, while at the same time – as you stated – genuinely adding, “Not my will but thine be done.” To pray for acceptance of one’s cross is certainly an ultimate goal, though many of us (myself included) are just “not there yet.” Many saints actually got to the point where they loved and embraced their crosses, not merely accepted them. So that is our ultimate hope, and yet we must remain hopeful and trusting in the midst of mystery. That’s how I maintain sanity and peace in my life!

  2. Beautiful reflection, Jeannie, thank you for sharing your beautiful soul.

    I especially love what you say about “Suffering also forces me into that school of silence and solitude.” How true! Yet how often do I fight against it? I know I need time to repair and be silent, but it’s so hard to leave the chatter. Once I do, I realize how much more peaceful I am and I feel like the Holy Spirit thinks, “Finally, I have you all to myself!”

    • Hi Erika Marie,
      Many thanks for your kindness. I really think our culture perpetuates the insanity of frenetic intemperance in our society. That’s why it’s all the more critical that we discipline ourselves for silence and solitude – especially we with children and housework and careers, etc. It seems to me to be human nature to fight against suffering, but entering into our pain with Jesus begins with an act of the will.

  3. That first question… ugh, I have to admit that I have a habit of screeching, “A cross??? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” Over the years, I’ve done little more than turn that screech into “Please, God, pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease not?” After reading Unleashed, though… I’m not exactly accepting my crosses, but I’ve instead tried to just sit with the pain and fear of them in prayer. I know I’m not a fan of suffering, but I’m hoping that at least looking at God’s invitation before throwing it out and running to hide. Alas, that’s the closest I often come to saying “yes” to God’s invitations. I mean, I “offer it up” on a regular basis, but just for those things that I know I can’t avoid. Those things I could do but would rather not so often become sins of omission. It’s something to work on. Great reflection, Jeannie.

    • Erin,
      Wait until my book, From Grief to Grace, comes out! I’m so excited, because it touches on the very issues you mentioned here – and many of the others that these lovely women were discussing, too. I’m definitely not one to run with open arms to my cross, either. It’s only human, after all, to recoil from pain. But pain is a teacher, an indicator for change.

  4. For me, it’s not either “accept my cross” or “hope He removes it”; it’s both, and. Because the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” I struggle in my fallen nature against suffering and pray He removes it. But in my will, that higher, most spiritual part, I accept it if I must and look for what God wants to teach me through it. Often I find that when I have received the lesson in my suffering, it either lessens in pain (because I begin to receive it with joy), or disappears altogether.

    Your reflections, ladies, are such gifts to the world.

    • Sonja,
      I think you are right that it’s both/and. Suffering is multidimensional, and truthfully, God permits different types of suffering and levels of intensity or duration of it for different reasons. There are some people who endure lifelong suffering that increases with intensity. Others may be given a temporary cross that vanishes after the lesson is learned, as you mentioned, while still others receive several different crosses that overlap. It’s about where we are in our spiritual journey and where God is asking us to go with Him as He leads us. Each of us has a different journey to Heaven, but all entail some form of suffering.

      • This last tow years I have suffer non stop ?
        emotional and physical first after taking a walk my foot got caught in a hole and I noticed I started to fall as I was falling I heard three pop as I was hitting the ground . Yes I broke my ankle I was alone and in pain I could hardly walk to the car to take myself to the hospital to have it looked at it turned out that I remain in a cast for a good while having to learn to get around in crutches for the first time in my life . At home not able to do much soon depression came in made it worst I found myself. Home alone all day for months . However I Used that time to do a lot of book reading and catholic studies . The very day I was released from my crutches I came home pull out a chair to set down and all over again as I sat down I miss the chair and fell on my on my hands to catch my self as I did my wrist Completely broke my right wrist I could not even pick up my hand I had to grab my hand and hold it with the broken one while it just hung over lifeless it was horrible so much my body literally went into shock . my husband took me to the hospital and they did surgery on my right wrist with screws and metal to place my broken wrist together again ( just like Humpty Dumpty fell over the wall again)
        This time. My wrist. Was in a brace for awhile again .
        My depression became worst and as a result I know longer wanted to step out of my home to socialize or anything at all that’s how bad I felt .
        But things didn’t get better Christmas Eve I was quarantine from my whole family the doctors said They had not seen a case flue this bad in years ( I sat home. all alone singing ” ( along with Elvis A Blue Christmas )
        Yes this all happen too me this past last year .
        I finally broke ask the Lord why?
        He wanted me all to him self completely with no distractions literally in the wilderness . I reach that breaking point ok Lord I am yours broken and tried open my eyes you have something to teach me & I am not getting it because I feel so depress .
        That’s when Unleashed came out . Sometimes God really allows things too happen. Just to really get our attention because I like everyone else really who wants to suffer? Ok if I have to can it just be a little bit not too much :), ?
        Suffering has its meaning .

        • Yes, Marina, suffering has its meaning, even and especially when the most unfortunate circumstances – like breaking your ankle – come along. Blessings to you!

          • Thank you Jeannie , I know my post was long and you read it though . I appreciate your comment ..Yes, I ask myself that the whole year 1/2 .” Ok Lord I am broken down, and know feel hopeless. In this moment .I found myself doubting my faith b/c I had lost hope I just kept going down. And know I know there was a meaning to all these . To hear God Speke

  5. For me patience learning to discern his voice speaking through my circumstances . And patience I am not. That was a very difficult for me to learn.

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