16 Mar

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.  ~ Helen Keller

When Helen Keller was less than two years old, she developed an illness — probably scarlet fever or meningitis — that left her blind, deaf, and mute.  As she grew, she was described by many as an animal.  Without any ability to communicate her needs or desires, she was barely controllable.

That was where Anne Sullivan came into the picture.  She was the person that helped Helen communicate.  Once Helen learned that she could communicate with the world, she blossomed.  She became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.  She later became an author, activist, and lecturer.  In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

All of this was born through her suffering.  She suffered incredibly in her earlier years not being able to communicate her thoughts and feelings.  She suffered later when she was met with intolerance or indifference because of her handicaps.  Yet she continued to persist, making herself known and heard.  She eventually became an example and inspiration to millions.

Persistence in suffering is most definitely an image of Lent.  We suffer many things in our lives.  Some of our sufferings are physical.  Anyone might be able to tell just by looking at us that we have physical problems.  Some of our sufferings are internal and may be physical, such as chronic illness, or emotional, such as anxiety or depression.  Even other times, our sufferings might be spiritual.  We might have lost hope in our redemption or faltered in our faith in God.

Our suffering oftentimes leads us to act uncharacteristically.  People may even say to us, “What’s wrong with you?  This isn’t who you are.”  Others may see evidence of our suffering without really knowing what is causing our suffering.

There is one who knows our suffering, though.  God not only knows, He cares.  Suffering is a consequence of living in an imperfect, sinful world.  Jesus knew that as well since He was made to suffer greatly, especially toward the end as He struggled on the road to Calvary.

We can allow our suffering to weigh us down and isolate us from others or we can work through our suffering and become inspirations to others.  If we attempt to work through our suffering, God will give us the grace that we need.  In the process, we will become an inspiration to others who suffer as well.

Do not be afraid of suffering for, in the end, suffering — as, indeed, all things — is transitory.

FAITH ACTION:  Come to the aid today of someone who is suffering whether emotionally, physically, or spiritually.