When we are ill, in pain, grieving, or suffering in another way, it can be difficult to feel close to the Lord. And a greater difficulty is when we feel abandoned by God, because our prayers do not relieve our suffering. So how can we best pray in such a state?
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™ a listener called in whose chronic physical suffering is causing her great mental anguish as well. Despite her daily prayers and time before the Blessed Sacrament, she says things seem to be getting worse, not better, and she doesn’t feel the comfort of Our Lord in prayer. Msgr. Swetland offered her some insight and words of encouragement, saying:
“I’m very sorry for your pain and suffering. I believe that God is calling you to a great love – to unite yourself with Him. I know it’s easier said than done.
But I think of Hebrews chapter 12, because God does allow people to suffer, and we wonder why He would let us suffer. That suffering can be offered in union with what He suffered on the Cross, and the Scriptures tell us that’s a source of grace.
For example, in St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:24 he talks about his own suffering. He was scourged, he was shipwrecked, he was almost killed, he was almost stoned to death, barely surviving. He suffered so much, and he offered that for his ministry. In a similar way, there are those who are intercessors for us, who offer their suffering for the sake of the Church and for the sake of all the evangelization apostolates out there.
In chapter 12 of the letter to the Hebrews it says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us, and persevere in running the race that lies before us; while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before Him, He endured the Cross. Despising its shame He has taken His place at the right hand of God. Consider how He endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. You have also forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons. My sons, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when reproved by Him. For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. He scourges every son He acknowledges.
You’re right that He won’t send you more than you can handle, and you might be right at your wits end, but you have an opportunity to be a great intercessor for us. We need people like you who are interceding for us, and offering this great pain and suffering to the Lord for us. Because we need those prayer warriors behind us.
I know it’s a difficult vocation, much more difficult than mine. But I beg you to persevere, knowing how much you are loved by God and by that great cloud of witnesses, the saints and angels who are surrounding you.
Don’t try to struggle in this alone. Reach out for that spiritual director, just like you’ve reached out to doctors to help your medical condition, reach out to spiritual doctors who can help you in this time of dryness. We need this perfect abandonment to the Lord, but it’s so much easier said than done.
Persevere. We’re praying with you, and reach out for that local help that will help guide you through this period. It’s a time of great grace for you if you can embrace it and be guided through it.”
Listen to the full conversation below:
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