January 30, 2015
Suffering. Even though it's something we can minimize in our lives through virtuous living and following the Church's teachings, none of us can escape it. When we experience it, we can be tempted to mull over thoughts revolving around why this is happening to me or what have I done to deserve this.
But through Jesus' Passion, death, and resurrection, suffering has been changed; it has been redeemed allowing it to carry meaning. No matter what suffering we may be facing, we must know that God is permitting this to happen as an act of love and that He will bring about a greater good from it, for our own good and others’. If we choose to unite the pain we are experiencing to Christ, we can share in His work of salvation meriting graces for others and ourselves.
Recently, suffering has taken on deeper meaning for me as I embark on a new adventure.
On December 29, I had surgery to have an ovarian cyst removed. Much to my surprise and shock, along with that of my family and doctors, I awoke to my mom and sister telling me that I didn't actually have a cyst but that my abdomen is riddled with an aggressive gastro-intestinal cancer. All were flabbergasted at this news.
Upon hearing this, I knew that this was God's will and that He would be with me in the midst of whatever would happen along with my family, my boyfriend Jesse, relatives and friends far and wide. Thank you to everyone who has been praying and reaching out to me during this. Words do not begin to describe how much I appreciate you!
God also allowed me to know that this cross was an invitation to me to help bring others closer in their relationship with Him. My sister Renae created a CaringBridge site online where she posts updates on my present condition. Through comments, emails, phone calls and conversations, we've received glimpses of how God is reaching hearts through this present trial. I want to share with you a particular text message I received to show you God's goodness and faithfulness.
The following is a text message I received from a student I met while I was a FOCUS missionary. The name has been changed out of respect for the individual.
"Hi Michelle! It's Paige Smith, Johnson now. I hope you remember me. You helped me through so much. Michelle, I've been thinking about you a lot since I found out about your prognosis on Facebook. I felt that I had to reach out. I want you to know how much you and your faith mean to me and I want to tell you a little bit about myself since I graduated from Mary. My husband and I were not granted permission to marry in the church after careful preparation with my priest and steady communication with my home diocese. I was heartbroken when I found out 4 months before my wedding that I wouldn't be able to marry in the church. Long story short, I held it against God, got married outside the church anyway, and haven't been to church since. What's the use if I can't receive communion, right? We proceeded with the annulment anyway and I'm not sure when that will go through. Anyway, I'm telling you this because I've tried to pray a few times since then, and I just haven't felt God's presence in my heart. I prayed for you yesterday and felt a connection with the Lord for the first time in almost a year. You were the one who brought me closer to Christ while I was in college and, somehow, you've done it again. I really want you to know that you're the kindest person I think I've ever met and I know God has a plan for you. If anyone deserves a miracle, it's you. No matter what God's plan, though, I know in my heart that it's bigger than all of this. I haven't invited the Lord into my heart for a while, but I just have this feeling. Thank you for truly being a blessing in my life."
We have no idea how God's plan will unfold in our lives and how He is using us to reach others. We know that we're all in this together and that we're all on the same team in the body of Christ, so I see the present suffering as taking one for the team. May God be glorified by all the good that comes through this!
In closing, know of my gratitude to you. We hope that the Spark Conference will take place at the end of February, so register online if you want to learn some helpful tips on how to help others come to know Christ. But, know it may need to be postponed depending on my health situation.
May God's peace and joy fill you!