How Your Suffering Can Help Make the World a Better, Kinder Place
How Your Suffering can Make the World a Better, Kinder Place
Beautiful Mercy (Week 4 of 5)
Nothing makes us more effective ministers of comfort than having suffered ourselves. Not one of your tears of pain will be wasted if you allow them to be redeemed in the life of another. God can use every ounce of what you have been through to make this world a better, kinder place. “Beautiful Mercy” (Comforting Mercy, Paragraph eight)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded in 1980 by Candace Lightner after 13-year-old old daughter was killed by a drunk driver. There is now a MADD office in every state in the union and in all Canadian provinces. This organization has served to educate thousands upon thousands of drivers about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol. There is no telling how many lives have been saved as a result of her initiative. This woman took her pain and used it to “make this world a better, kinder place.”
In 1981 six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears department store and murdered by a serial killer. Three years later, Adam’s father, John, established the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. As a result of this organization’s efforts, more than 232,000 missing children have been recovered. In his grief, John Walsh served “to make this world a better, kinder place.”
Dave Ramsey was worth over a million dollars at the age of 26, and earned over $250k per year via a lucrative real estate career. After losing everything he had because he was over-leveraged in debt, he determined never to go into debt again, turned his finances around and once again became a millionaire. Ramsey wrote his first bestselling book, Financial Peace, for the purpose of sharing his hard-earned wisdom with others. Through reading his books and listening to his radio show, thousands of people have learned how to live and even thrive without debt. Dave Ramsey used his painful experience to “make this world a better, kinder place.”
The above are just a few examples. There are countless organizations that have been established under similar circumstances. But service in the wake of suffering is not only done via organizations. Just think about the thousands of individuals who daily offer a shoulder, lend an ear, or quietly serve a neighbor in some way because they, themselves, have been there, and understand.
But while God gives us abundant opportunities to turn our pain into service, we must be careful not to abandon the source of that grace that allows us to serve. If we are not careful, it is feasible that we can use service a means of squelching our pain, rather than allowing God to work in us, to serve others through our pain. While service is good, it must not be an end in itself. We cannot be so focused on the man in front of us that we ignore the God above us. Our service should only exist as a result of our participation in the body of Christ, done in Him and through Him. Serving others is not an opportunity to fly solo. And if we fall into that trap, we will suffer; more importantly, those whom we serve may suffer.
According to Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
The vertical relationship to God has, to some extent, been abandoned in favor of a horizontal relationship to man. Service is taking the place of prayer. The Mount of Transfiguration is abandoned for the sake of the sick boy and the distraught father in the valley below. Marys are leaving the feet of Christ to become Marthas of the Inner City. The sacred is identified with the secular; the Kingdom of God becomes the Kingdom of Man.
We can witness this phenomenon in the world today. Service is sometimes almost a means of expression. A means of finding value and meaning in our own lives. Some of that is good. God can allow us to find meaning through service. But we begin to have problems when service is about the act in itself, as opposed to the person being served. We have problems when service becomes about finding meaning rather than extending love.
And the only way to ensure that service is about love? Keep that vertical relationship between you and God the center of all giving, the hub of every horizontal relationship. Do not abandon the source of the candle you extend to your neighbor, lest it burn out and you are both left with nothing.
In No Greater Love, Mother Teresa describes the critical function of this vertical relationship beautifully:
Each one of us is merely a small instrument. When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, often you see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, produce the light of the world.
Mother Teresa called suffering the “kiss of Jesus.” She said,
Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.
Through that kiss God’s grace can fill us with an empathy and love for others that enables us to wipe away their tears. Provided we remain close to the source of that grace, our service can and will “make this world a better, kinder place.” And that is exactly the kind of world we want.
Admonish the Sinner – End
1. What do you think about Archbishop Sheen’s quote? Have we allowed service to subvert our relationship with God, creating a horizontal view of the world, while neglecting the necessary vertical component?
2. Pray about how God might be calling you to serve your neighbors through pain or suffering you have endured in the past. Are there any areas you believe you may be especially equipped to serve?
Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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