There is no doubt that each of us will suffer in this life. This reality is as inevitable as the experiences of love, joy, peace, elation…and death that we will all partake of. The severity of our suffering is determined in large part by our chosen perspective of our particular circumstance. The state that I, along with many others, have chosen to cultivate is one of presence, of remaining present, for it is only in this present moment that we exist, experience, or grow in any way that can be considered “real” or that leads us into deeper realms of enlightenment or union with God.
There is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow. As beings traveling the road of linear time, yesterday is gone and tomorrow, or even a moment 10 seconds from now, is purely a figment of our imagination. There is only one place that we dwell and that is right here, right now. Especially in times of pain (physical or emotional) it is easy to want to flee from the present but to do so is to miss the lessons and beauty that originate only from these necessary and unique moments of existence. As long as we are fleeing from the moment (our minds dwelling, usually involuntarily, in the past or future), fleeing from pain, then we are unable to meet and experience God in the midst of it. It is through, and only through, these times of darkness that we come to know the indwelling Spirit of God as “Comforter”. There is no healing without pain; no need or experience of comfort without suffering or distress.
It’s critical that we are present in suffering, not looking for the easiest way out, but experiencing God in the midst of suffering as our comfort and strength. When Jesus was in Gethsemane it’s recorded that he repeatedly requested for “this cup to pass” from him, to be excused from going to his cross. He didn’t pray these words out of fear or avoidance of his destiny in any way. He prayed thus because he needed God’s Voice in that moment to speak the life and strength into him that he would need to walk with grace through whatever circumstance life was about to thrust upon him. Each of us hears this Voice, albeit in different forms and modes of receiving. It may be a gentle leading or comfort you feel, the audible encouragement of a friend, or simply a whisper in your heart that you have termed your conscience or maybe think of demeaningly of as “just your own thoughts”. So many times others have questioned me about hearing The Voice and when I told them it sounds just like your own thoughts they have been discouraged and said, “Well how do I know if it’s my own thoughts or the voice of God?!” My answer is, what’s the difference? If you’re thoughts are ones of beauty or love, patience or goodness, rest assured they are the thoughts of God. It is only if my thoughts are of bitterness, hatred, or especially fear, that I become suspicious and do not relate them directly to the light, love and flow of beauty that I call God.
All this pontificating on the benefit of suffering is not to suggest that we should seek after suffering; for seeking pain, (penance, fasting, self-deprecating thoughts, etc.) in order to “get ahead spiritually” does not incite the same quality of experience of the goodness of God. I am suggesting only that we may simply and gently embrace pain when it inevitably comes, knowing that while patiently enduring and remaining present we are being further transformed into the likeness of God, and that our suffering is not in vain.
God is and is equally present everywhere and in every circumstance; in light and darkness, life and loss, joy and pain. If we cannot recognize God (beauty) in ourselves, another person or group, place or circumstance, this is indicates an area of blindness on our part, not a godless void. For the Love I call God is all, and is in all, and is holding all things together.