Faith & Suffering
Jesus tells the woman who touched his clothes, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34) Jesus also says this when he heals blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52) and the Samaritan leper (Luke 17:19). The faith of the person and Jesus’ mercy are what motivate him to heal the sick and physically disabled. Yet I am sure there were many people who listened to Jesus and had faith in him who were not healed of their physical ailments. Does Jesus not have mercy on one who has faith but is not healed of their illness or ailment?
There are many saints – men and women of great faith – who died of illnesses and afflictions. Saint Therese of Lisieux had great faith but died of tuberculosis at age 24. Gianna Molla had great faith but died of cancer soon after her baby was born. Blessed Carlos Acutis (beatified by Pope Francis on 10 October 2020) had great faith but died of leukemia. Men and women of great faith still get sick and die.
It is important to remember that physical healing is not the only sign of Christ’s mercy. While we or our loved ones may not receive physical healing, Christ’s mercy does shower upon us inviting us to accept spiritual and emotional healing. I recently heard a beautiful quote by James Finley, a mystic teacher at the Center for Contemplation and Action: “God will not intercede as protector but will sustain us through it all.” Even if we are not healed, God is still with us watching over us, filling us with strength and comfort, loving us. It is our responsibility, however, to be open to and accept God’s strength, comfort, and love in the midst of suffering. We have a choice to live through our suffering with grace and peace trusting in God’s presence with us or to fall into despair and bitterness.
It’s also important to remember that the end of our life on this earth is not the end of our life. Death from this world is birth into new life with Christ. We tend to have a short-term perspective on life. We are often too focused on living well here and now – in comfort, without pain, able to do what we want to do when we want to do it. Yet there is great peace in having a long-term perspective on life. There is a great peace that comes upon us when we remember that “there’s more to life than meets the eye,” when we extend our gaze into the eternal. When we relax into the brokenness and suffering of this world knowing that the best is yet to come, we can live with our suffering and not be disappointed by the lack of healing here and now.