By Pamela Patnode, Ed.D
O Lord, why do you cast me off? ~ Psalm 88:14a
There are 150 psalms in the Bible, and 149 end in praise to God. Only one psalm ends in despair.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness. Psalm 88:19
A woman struggling with miscarriage and infertility recently shared that grief, bitterness, and despair filled her heart, suffocating the meager hope within her. Her lamentation reminded me of Hannah’s gut-wrenching cries to God at the temple – desperate pleas like the Psalmist who questioned, “Why, O LORD, why do you cast me off?”
The great Russian writer Dostoevsky said, “There is only one thing that I dread; not to be worthy of my sufferings.” Reflecting upon this quote while a prisoner in the concentration camp during World War II, Viktor Frankl observed, “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”
In today’s readings, we recognize that Job suffers, the Psalmist suffers, and we suffer. Indeed, few, if any, will get through life without adversity, difficulty, grief, loss, affliction, or distress. There are times in life when all we can say is, “God, why have you abandoned me?”
The answer to suffering
God did not give Job an answer to his sufferings, and the Psalmist ended his lament in despair. We, too, may cry out to God and feel as though our prayers are not being heard. What, then, are we to do?
A wise priest often said that we had two responses to the storms of life. He said that we could grow bitter in life, or we could grow better in life. The choice was ours. He said that prayer was the difference between those who grow closer to God during life’s challenges and those who grow away from God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Follow me.” That is our answer. It is not the answer to our why of suffering. It is the answer to our how. How do we go on during the darkest days? How do we manage under the weight of our cross? How do we maintain hope when all hope seems lost? The answer is Christ. We cling to Him. We follow Him. We trust in Him.
God, Job trusted in you despite his unfathomable suffering. Mary trusted in you through all her sorrows. Please increase my trust so that I may not despair nor cease to follow you when I stumble under the weight of my crosses.
Call to Action
Today, pray for three people that you know who are suffering. Then, consider sending each one a note letting them know they remain in your prayers.
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