The subtitle of 10 Promises of Jesus by Marge Fenelon is “Scripture Reflections about Suffering and Joy.” It reflects only a part of what the book has to offer. It doesn’t tell you about the beautiful stories Marge collected from those who have suffered some of the most difficult tragedies you can imagine.
Marge begins by reminding the readers that the Beatitudes are about suffering and joy — and so is her new book. The central promise of the Beatitudes is that our sorrows — whatever kind of sorrow it is or however long it lasts – will be turned to joy. Christ who has experienced all our sufferings keeps his promises.
These promises include:
- “Seek First His Kingdom.”
- “He who comes to me shall not hunger.”
- “Ask and you shall receive.”
- “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed.”
- “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.”
- “Come to me … and I will give you rest.”
- “In me you have peace.”
- “The Holy Spirit will teach you.”
- “All things are possible with God.”
- “Your hearts will rejoice.”
The heartbreak of dealing with the grief of cancer, widowhood, abuse, alcoholic poisoning, drug addiction, amputation, debilitating diseases, failed suicide, loneliness, barrenness, and finding meaning in your child’s death are unbearable to live through or even to read. Yet the joy these brave souls experience overwhelms their losses. They discover new purposes for their lives that, in turn give comfort to hundreds.
The courage of those in this book plainly illustrates how Jesus keeps his promises in supernatural ways.
How could Darlene forgive the Emergency Room staff for mistakes that caused her to lose both her legs?
After her first husband died of cancer, how could Elise handle seeing her second husband struggle to survive a severe illness when she doesn’t feel the Lord beside her this time?
As Marge writes,
“To grapple with your faith in difficult times is no shame, as long as you continue, through the struggle, to seek first his kingdom and righteousness.”
How does Maureen, who has struggled with the chronic pain of lupus almost all her life, not become angry or resentful, but accept her illness and allow it to draw her closer to Jesus? Her joy is in calling on God in her suffering and receiving his gifts and consolations in return. “God wants us to feel his comfort and encouragement,” Maureen said, “We call on him and he opens his arms.”
The parents of alcohol or drug-addicted young adults learned that God doesn’t expect perfection from us. He is always near, even when we think he’s not. He is never closer to us than when we suffer. With the courage to make a deliberate choice for joy, we can suffer bravely knowing he is more powerful than us and capable of achieving what we cannot in circumstances we cannot control.
After losing his son to alcohol poisoning on his 18th birthday, Barry set out on a 1,400-mile walk to bring his son’s ashes home. During the walk, a “still, small voice” helped Barry come to grips with the tragedy of Kevin’s death and he was able to forgive himself and accept the fact that he is not in charge — God is. Barry’s faith moved from his head to his heart. “God’s got a plan and as they say, you do everything you can do and then you let God do what only he can do.”
A real tear-jerker was the story of Rod and Maria’s true, heartbreaking suffering, beginning with the news that their baby girl would be born with severe heart problems, among a long list of genetic disorders. While Maria was pregnant, she felt God was telling her this was all part of His will, that it would be for His glory and she didn’t need to worry about it. During the 59 days that Vivian lived, her young aunt organized a Vivian’s Victory walk to raise money for her care. People all over the world loved and supported her.
The love that Vivian had brought with her into the world only multiplied after her death, evident in the joy, love, and goodness she brought out in everyone that wad touched by her story. Rod and Maria knew they must continue what Vivian had started and help others. After the funeral expenses, they gave away the money left in the Vivian’s Victory walk fund to families with severely ill children who needed financial help.
The Victory walk fund continued to help more than one hundred families. What began as an event to raise money for their expenses became a beautiful ministry with Vivian’s Victory walk an annual event for the foundation they formed. Maria wrote, “This is the only gift that I get to give my daughter … I’m the one who is chosen to bring hope to these families we serve. Our whole mission is to let these families know they’re not alone.”
“There is no book, no step-by-step process to get from sorrow to joy,” Maria said, “No one could tell you how to do that, and there’s no timeline. But, it’s there if you allow yourself to be open to it. The door of God’s mercy and grace is always open. You just need to come through that open door.”
I learned so much about suffering and how it can bring joy and how God knows what we can handle. I can relate to Marge’s bike analogy in so many ways I can’t even list them all. As a child, Marge kept asking for a specific shiny new bicycle. Eventually her parents gave her an ugly green used bike that seemed so shameful that she grew angry and disgusted. She struggled to learn how to ride, often banging up the bike. “It didn’t take long for me to discover that the bike I’d been given was in truth perfect for me,” she writes.
But she had the courage to ask God for what she wanted – and kept asking until she got a result, although not the one she wanted. We can’t be afraid to ask God just because we might not understand exactly what we want. Or give up because he doesn’t seem to answer. It’s especially hard when we are suffering not to become discouraged. To continue asking, believing in God’s power to provide for us when all seems lost, requires courage.
“Whether your sorrow is caused by physical, mental, or emotional situations, or financial hardships, God is more powerful than any trouble you may face, any obstacle you meet with, that weighs you down. Our Lord knows what is best for you – even when the best is something very very hard for you – and he will see to it that you have the guidance and grace that you need to fulfill God’s will for you.
“It’s true that sorrow and joy aren’t mutually exclusive and can take place at the same time. Because, even in the worst possible crisis, you can be sure that your sorrow will be turned to joy. That is Jesus’ promise.”
This book is available through the publisher, Twenty-Third Publications.
Marge Steinhage Fenelon is an award-winning journalist, and popular speaker. She blogs regularly at National Catholic Register and is a columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Fenelon has appeared on EWTN and is a frequent guest on many Catholic radio shows nationwide. She’s the author of several books on Marian devotion and Catholic spirituality, including Forgiving Mother, Imitating Mary, and her award-winning Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: A Living Novena. Fenelon is an instructor for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Deacon Wives Program and, along with her husband, a consecrated member of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt.
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Copyright 2018 Nancy HC Ward