Recently, while returning to my car after having bought some groceries, I met a woman in the parking lot who appeared to be suffering.
Thin and elderly with a knapsack strapped to her back, I noticed quickly that she had a “lost” look about her – as if she couldn’t take her next step.
She gazed at me as I walked past her, but she said nothing. After walking a few more steps, I turned around and asked her if she needed any help. She explained to me in a whisper, almost with fear, that she was in bad pain and needed some ibuprofen for her arthritis, but she didn’t have enough money to buy it.
I offered to go back into the store to buy the pills she needed, and she gladly accepted my offer. When I came out of the store, she was still standing in the exact same place, waiting patiently for my return.
She thanked me profusely, again and again. I asked her if she needed a ride home, but she responded by explaining that she preferred to walk, that the day was beautiful, and it would give her a chance to move her legs. She then retrieved a water bottle from her knapsack, swallowed two of the ibuprofen down, and continued to speak about the beauty of the day.
She then said, pointing to her bottle of ibuprofen, “These should really help me today, but even without them, I would have been just fine. Just look at this gorgeous day.”
She again thanked me for my help, asked me my name, and then said to me “God bless you Alan, I will pray for you today and always”. And I offered her the same prayers back.
This brief conversation really touched me.
She was clearly struggling and hurting. Her life was obviously difficult. But through it all, she remained positive and close to God.
Unity in Pain and Suffering
Every single human being has experienced some kind of pain and suffering (emotional or physical), hopelessness and loneliness at one time or another. We are all connected through this shared pain and struggle. Yet we can often feel so alone.
But this feeling of being alone … this separation from the rest of the world, it is an illusion. Sure, it definitely feels very real. But it’s not true.
In life, we all have been given crosses to bear. And some people suffer more than others. But if we embrace our daily cross, versus complaining and perhaps even despairing over them, we find Jesus standing on the other side of it, waiting to help us carry it.
And we realize that we don’t have to carry it alone. And through this realization, our daily life becomes a partnership with Jesus. And He walks every step of our life along side us.
Our Lord proved His love for us by embracing His cross, so we are equally given the opportunity to prove our love for Him by embracing our daily trials.
And suddenly our feeling of being alone, our feeling of separation from the rest of the world, it truly is an illusion. Because God is always with us, by our side, every minute of every day.
God gives us the grace and inspiration to solve our daily problems, and to help remedy our troubles. Just as He inspired the woman I met to obtain some medication to help ease her pain.
But even if our efforts fail, we should never lose our peace by impatience or anger, or ever rebel against God’s Will. The woman I met was very grateful for the pills, but even if she had not received them, she was still determined to be grateful and to find beauty in her day.
This is a good lesson for all of us.
It teaches us that the more we grow in a genuine love for Jesus, the less we will fear or resent the Cross, even when our prayers aren’t always answered the way we want them to be … because He supports and consoles us every step of the way, and knows far better than we do, exactly what we do need.
God Gives Us Each Other
And we must also never forget, when we feel alone in our suffering, it is only an illusion. It’s simply not true. Because God has given us each other, with His help, to support and encourage each other.
And one of the best ways to truly carry our cross, is to turn, even in the midst of our own suffering and pain, and extend our hand to help others who are suffering. This helps us to “get out of ourselves” and not focus so much on what we are going through, but turn the focus outward toward others.
Look around you – so many people today are suffering for so many different reasons. How can you offer them your friendship and support? How can you help them to ease their pain in some way?
By turning outwards, toward the pain of others, we are each given the opportunity to fill our hearts with God’s love, so that we can truly help others.
And that I believe is a miracle.