At multiple times during my grandfather’s journey with brain cancer, he and I would discuss suffering and pain. The most poignant conversation came during one his last weeks of life. It was a day that he was asleep for most of my visit. As I leaned into to kiss his forehead good-bye, he awoke and looked at me with his bright blue eyes and said, “I am glad you are here because I need to talk to you about something.” Not knowing what in the world he was about to ask me, I said, “Ok, Boppy. What’s on your mind?” His response, “Suffering and Jesus”.
It was not abnormal for him and I to discuss faith and Jesus, but the last few weeks our heartfelt conversations were peppered with him sharing his last wishes, his thoughts on his funeral, and going through every detail of life to make sure my grandmother would be taken care of. I was initially caught off guard at the depth of what he began sharing, but quickly understood the profound moment that was unfolding before me as I listened to his thoughts and questions about Jesus’ suffering, his suffering, and Jesus’ companionship with him during his journey.
I fought back tears as long as I could as my heart expanded with love for both my grandfather and God. It felt as if God was affirming everything I had come to understand through my own experiences of hardship and pain through the words of this man I loved deeply and who loved me deeply. Jesus’ amazing gift of companionship in our suffering. The relief and awe I had of hearing how intimately God was with him was so overwhelming I could no longer hold my tears back, nor could he, and we both wept at the gift of God’s relationship with us.
What my grandfather shared with me that day is the good news of our faith. We are never alone, not even in our suffering. While we are not promised a life free from suffering, we are promised companionship through whatever we are facing.
Pope Francis in Lumen Fidei says it so well:
“Faith is not a light that scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explains everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”
My grandfather understood that day that he was not alone and that he was held in the light of God’s gift of accompaniment. He knew that God offered him a place to voice his needs and prayers, a place to be comforted, and a place of strength and hope.
As our conversation ended, and I leaned in once again to kiss him on his forehead, he told me, “Becksa, please, go tell people what we understand.” With a conviction I felt in the depths of me, I promised him I would.
Who in your life needs to know that God is with them in their suffering?
- Mark 16:14-18// Go out and spread the Good News
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12// Companionship
- Proverbs 27:17-19// Helping Others