Parents have a lot to be anxious about. We see our children suffer, from infants on up. It is so easy to get caught up in it….to let it consume us.
We have to stand back and get a hold of ourselves…..look at the situation through the eyes of a confident child, that knows her Father is watching over her and those she loves and listening to every prayer.
A situation in which we frequently risk losing our peace of soul is that in which someone close to us finds himself in difficulty.
We sometimes feel more troubled and preoccupied by the suffering of a friend or a child than by our own suffering. In itself, this may be fine and good, but it must never become an occasion for despair.
How much excessive anxiety sometimes reigns in families when a member is tested in matters of health, unemployment, depression, etc. How many parents torment themselves over a problem concerning one of their children, for example.
The Lord, however, invites us not to lose our interior peace in these instances either, for all the reasons already enumerated in the preceding pages.
Our distress is legitimate, but we must remain peaceful. The Lord does not know how to abandon us: Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Yet even should she forget, I will never forget you (Isaiah 49:15).
There is one point, however, on which we wish to insist, and it is this: as we shall see by the following, it is equally important to clearly know how to distinguish between true and false humility, between real, peaceful and confident repentance and false, disturbing remorse which paralyzes, as it is to know how to distinguish between that which we might call true and false compassion.
It is certain that the more we advance in the Christian life, the more our compassion grows. While we are naturally hard and indifferent, the spectacle of misery in the world and the suffering of their brothers draws tears from the saints whose intimacy with Jesus has “melted” their hearts, according to the expression of the Curé of Ars.
Saint Dominic spent his nights in prayer and in tears pleading with the Lord: “Merciful God, what will become of sinners?” And one could rightly doubt the value of the spiritual life of a person who does not manifest a growing compassion.
However, the compassion of the saints, if it is profound and quick to marry all misery and come to its relief is nevertheless always tender, peaceful and confident. It is the fruit of the Spirit.
On the contrary, our compassion for ourselves is often disturbed and anxious. We have a way of implicating ourselves in the suffering of others that is not always correct, that sometimes proceeds more from a love of self than from a true love of others.
And we believe that to preoccupy ourselves excessively with another in difficulty is justified, that it is a sign of the love that we feel for the other person. But this is false.
There is often in this attitude a great, hidden love of ourselves. We cannot bear the suffering of others because we are afraid of suffering ourselves. The reason is that we, too, lack confidence in God.
It is normal to be profoundly touched by the suffering of another who is dear to us, but if, because of this, we torment ourselves to the point of losing our peace, this signifies that our love for the other person is still not fully spiritual, is still not in harmony with God.
It is a love that is still too human and, without doubt, egotistical, whose foundation is not sufficiently based on an unshakable confidence in God.
In order for it to be a true Christian virtue, compassion for others must proceed from love (which consists in desiring the good of others, in the light of God and in accord with His designs) and not from fear (fear of suffering, fear of losing something).
But, in fact, all too often our attitude toward those around us who are suffering is more conditioned by fear than love. One thing is certain: God loves our dear ones infinitely more than we do, and infinitely better. He wants us to believe in this love, and also to know how to entrust those who are dear to us into His hands. And this will often be a much more efficacious way of helping them.
Our brothers and sisters who suffer need peaceful, confident and joyful people around them and will be helped much more effectively by them than by those who are preoccupied and anxious. Our false compassion often only adds to their sadness and distress. It is not a source of peace and hope for those who suffer.
I would like to give a concrete example that I encountered very recently. It concerns a young woman who suffers greatly from a form of depression, with fears and anxieties that often prevent her from going alone to the city. I spoke with her mother who was discouraged and in tears, and who begged me to pray for her daughter’s healing.
I respect infinitely the understandable pain of this mother. And we, of course, prayed for her daughter. But, what struck me is that when, a little later, I had occasion to speak with this young woman herself, I came to realize that she bore her suffering in peace.
She said to me: “I am incapable of praying, and the only thing that I do not cease to say to Jesus are the words of the Twenty-third Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” She also told me that she saw positive fruits from her illness, particularly in her father, who, in the past had been very harsh with her, but had now changed his demeanor.
I have often seen cases of this type: a person is undergoing a trial, but she manages this trial better than those around her, who are concerned and troubled.
There can be at times a way of multiplying prayers for healing, even of seeing a cure, of pursuing all the means possible and imaginable for obtaining the deliverance of this person, without being aware that the hand of God is clearly behind it all.
I do not say that one should not support those who are suffering by persevering prayers and petitions for their healing, nor that we should not do what is humanly and spiritually possible to obtain it. It is our duty to do these things, to be sure. But we should do so in a spirit of peace and confident abandonment into the hands of God.
During the course of your day, do you feel affronted by someone close to you? Do you feel irritation and frustration? Say the name of Jesus. Do you feel like your opinions are not accounted for and you are upset about this? Is confidence lacking? Is your self-esteem suffering? Are you experiencing a bout of self-pity? Say the name of JESUS!
He knows what we need, He knows how to change our hearts and our way of thinking! He knows how to reach down into the recesses of our very beings, where there are battle wounds and scars, and heal, strengthen and redeem!
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