One of the most difficult things I face is trying to console someone who is suffering from a serious life threatening disease. Often they are scared and wanting to hide from their difficulty. Often, even their family members are afraid. When this happens they seem to be blocked from God and are unable to receive His help and consoling love. In such cases I have found there is little I can to do to help someone who is in this state. About all I can do is let them know I care about them, listen and patiently wait. I would like to offer them some consoling words from Scripture, help them pray, or offer a healing Sacrament, but often they are not able to receive. I listen and pray for them.
I don't have any direct personal experience with such suffering, having never faced a life threatening disease or accident. I have experienced this with those who are close to me. I have lost my mother and both of my wife's parents as well as close friends and relatives. My wife recently went though a battle with breast cancer. When we heard the news it was a shock. She did not panic but did not want anyone to know about her condition. I don't think either of us were cast into a state of fright. But, it is hard to understand her need to not let anyone know about her plight. We followed the doctor's advice and prayed for the Lord's help. I can't say either of us were ever afraid. Deep down we knew that our Loving God would be with us no matter the outcome.
A reader of this blog sent me a sermon given by Saint Nicholas Velimirovic on suffering that I wanted to share.
Homily by St.Nicholas Velimirovic
"Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer. Remain faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
By His suffering our Lord eased our suffering. He endured the greatest of pain and emerged as the Victor. That is why He can encourage us in our lesser sufferings. He suffered and endured in righteousness while we suffer and endure in expiating our own sins. This is why He can doubly remind us to endure to the end as He, the Sinless One, endured. Not one of us has helped nor alleviated His pains and endurance, yet He stands along side each one of us when we suffer and alleviates our pains and misfortunes. That is why He has the right to tell each one who suffers for His Name's sake: "Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of anything that you are going to suffer," says Christ, for I alone have endured all suffering and am familiar with them. I was not frightened at not a single suffering. I received them upon Myself and, in the end, overcame them all. I did not overcome them by dismissing them or fleeing from them but receiving them all upon Myself voluntarily and enduring them all to the end. And so you also should accept voluntary suffering, for I see and know how much and for how long you can endure.
If your suffering should continue to death itself and if it is the cause of your death, nevertheless, do not be afraid; "I will give you the crown of life." I will crown you with immortal life in which I reign eternally with the Father and the Life-Giving Spirit. God did not send you to earth to live comfortably, rather to prepare for eternal life. It would be a great tragedy if your Creator were unable to give you a better, longer, and brighter life than that which is on earth which reeks of decay and death and is shorter than the life of a raven.
O my brethren, let us listen to the words of the Lord and all of our sufferings will be alleviated. If the blows of the world seem as hard as stones, they will become as the foam of the sea when we obey the Lord.
O Victorious Lord, teach us more about Your long-suffering; and when we become exhausted, extend Your hand and sustain us.
We all do or will suffer in some way. Maybe you have some advice to share with us.