One of the most challenging obstacles to faith and continued trust and hope in God can be suffering. I was at a monthly Eucharist this morning at a local skilled care facility and most of the people who come to the service are from the memory unit there. In addition to the challenges of dementia, many (almost all, really) have some form of physical challenge associated with their memory loss and/or age. I tried speaking very briefly to them, before Communion, on the matter of suffering and healing and felt, well, less than convincing. What does the reality of Jesus mean to a person who has lost nearly everything, perhaps even themselves? Does our prayer for healing for those most afflicted, and for ourselves, do anything? And how do we answer the question of suffering and an absence of healing?
I have few answers to unrelenting suffering. What I have found helpful to me, in my own life, is to be reminded that Christ did not come to heal us from physical suffering. He healed the people that he came into contact with out of the abundance of His compassion; touching and caring for the sick and hurting is who Jesus was….and who he still is. Yet Jesus came among us to bring us back to God, to reconnect the fractured covenant of God’s grace and mercy and to remind us that we will always belong to God. There are no promises in this life; we all know this somehow. We can lead healthy, hopeful lives and still become sick, in the end. I don’t pretend to understand why some people are miraculously healed and others are not. But the promise of God in Christ is that we will never be abandoned, never bereft of God’s presence and we are God’s eternally. God is present in the world, even in the midst of suffering and that makes it possible for me, at least, to live in hope.