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Where is the Redemption?

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Suffering looks different for everyone. For some it’s going to a job every day that they hate, for others it’s battling mental illness and for many it’s a physical injury or illness. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of suffering, it’s a topic we can all, unfortunately, relate to.

As we prepare this issue of the magazine, we are in Lent, a time in which we reflect on Christ’s suffering: suffering through Satan’s temptations; suffering through the doubt and betrayal of His apostles; and ultimately, physically suffering the agony on the cross.

It’s also a time when my family is carrying our own difficult cross. Readers may have seen my previous articles about our son, Luke, who has run the gamut from mystery illness, to tentative diagnosis, to treatment. Over the past year we experienced a redemption as we began to get the disease under control. He’s been able to play with peers in near- typical ways. It’s given rise to hope, to joy.

So, you can imagine the crushing disappointment when we learned recently that, despite treatment, Luke’s illness is spreading. As he experiences the physical suffering of juvenile arthritis at age seven, we, as his parents, suffer mentally, emotionally and spiritually as we try to figure out the path ahead. Yes, Luke has an amazing medical team at one of the best Children’s hospitals in the country. Yes, we have supportive friends and family, but at the end of the day, the parent never wants to see their child suffer.

I was deep in this tunnel of thoughts, grappling with faith and why children get sick, when one of my favorite priests walked into my office. Although I suspect he was stopping by for a work-related need, when he asked how my son was doing, he found himself with a very emotional mother on his hands. Without missing a beat, Father said, “Tell God you’re mad. He wants to know. He wants you to talk to Him. God doesn’t want you to suffer. He doesn’t want your son to hurt. He wants to be there with you in this.”

It was like turning on a light in a dark room. God doesn’t want me to suffer? I knew that objectively. God didn’t want Jesus to suffer. But God doesn’t want me to suffer. He doesn’t want my son to suffer. So where is the redemption in all of this?

As I reflect on the journey we have been on this past year, it’s easier to find the bright spots. Luke is himself a bright light— his name literally translates to “light.” When we walk into Children’s Hospital, we’re often greeted by, “Oh, our favorite patient!” He eagerly asked us to pray through the intercession of his personal patron, St. Luke, the patron of physicians. And I am more courageous in asking for prayer, even with my circles of friends who aren’t particularly religious.

Suffering is difficult, as are many things in the earthly world, but God can still help us find the light, even in the darkest of times. As we approach Easter, let us remember Christ’s suffering and unite our own pain to His. And together, through prayer, may we seek the joy of the resurrection.

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