Several years ago, I received a healing for a back injury caused by a car accident; although God healed me from this, He did allow for some additional challenges in my life.
Some of my close friends and family may be intimately aware of my gluten allergy because they either made accommodations for my diet or have been with me as I have searched menus for a dish that I can enjoy. Although never formally diagnosed (requires a colonoscopy which I’m not willing to take the risk for), I have been fairly certain for a few years that my illness is very likely celiac disease. The following symptoms have been pretty commonplace when I consume with gluten:
- Iron deficiency
- Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
- Occasional mouth ulcers
- Headaches and fatigue
- Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance, and cognitive impairment
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
For almost 15 years, I have also suffered from extreme muscle tightness and pain. After the car accident and concussion, my neurologist believes that the trauma caused my brain to react in a certain way, where it is continuously telling my muscles to tighten and protect even though there is no cause for alarm. The chronic pain caused by the overstimulation of my muscles makes it difficult to sleep and relax; therefore, constant exhaustion sometimes exists from the lack of sleep.
Most of my friends do not know (until now) that I suffer from fibromyalgia. They know I’m up until all hours of the night and some that I have a hard time winding down. I’m revealing this now for one reason only. That is to identify the how and why of my suffering.
Let’s begin with the why.
In scripture, Jesus names us members of his body.
“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Also, 1 Corinthians 12:12:24:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
If we believe in the redeeming power of the Passion of Christ and that in His own words He calls us members of His mystical body, then it must be true that Christ elevates all suffering of the members of His body along with His. That He offers our pain the same redeeming power as His in the suffering of His Passion.
St. John Paul II wrote,
“In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”Salvifici Doloris
Was Jesus’ sacrifice not enough? Yes, it would have been; however, Jesus willed that the mystery of His passion continue on in us. That we be allowed to participate in making up what is lacking in another member of the body.
God allows our suffering so that we may accept it and choose to offer it to Him just as Jesus did. You see, there is power and tremendous value in it if we choose it.
This is why, instead of openly sharing about my daily suffering, I choose to endure and offer this suffering along with that of Christ. I do this for the reparation of my sins and for those of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Does this mean that I should want to suffer? No, God doesn’t want us to suffer. We should ask for healing, we should ask for God to “remove our cup,” but if we do not receive healing and He allows us the opportunity to shoulder this cross, we should make the most of that walk with Christ. We should understand that to walk with Him as Simon of Cyrene did, and if we open ourselves to this opportunity, we experience an intimacy and closeness with Christ. We can pray that as we walk with Him, that mercy may be granted through every step.
For me, this journey of suffering started after my spiritual conversion. A friend anointed me with an oil that had been blessed by the St. Padre Pio. At the time, I had no idea that this saint had suffered the wounds of Christ the majority of his life. He was in constant pain with open flesh wounds on his hands and his side.
Much like I do, Padre Pio always prayed for healing. He was finally granted healing just before his death. Because we share suffering in common, Padre Pio has become a model and mentor for me in my life through his examples. He has helped me to understand that suffering can be seen as a very intimate gift. That I am allowed to share in this suffering with Christ. I feel humbled that God has trusted me to carry this small burden. I say “small” because I realize that others carry much heavier crosses than I do.
I pray for them. If this is you, I pray for you. That you may have the same mind shift that I had. That you will see this as an opportunity to grow in your intimacy with Christ. That you will see this as a grand gesture of trust by God in you. That He has entrusted the choice of uniting your suffering with Christ for the mercy needed by your brothers and sisters or perhaps yourself. That in moments of doubt, you may recall Isaiah 53:5:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”