‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding the Silver Lining In Our Suffering

Sometimes we forget. We forget that the woman hastily cutting in front of us in traffic might just be racing home to a sick child. We forget that the rude older man in front of us at the bank might be heading home to care for a wife with dementia. The child so chronically belligerent in class may be dealing with an alcoholic or absentee parent. We forget and forget and forget. It's easier to assume the worst -- that these others are selfish, lazy, or just plain mean spirited. but it is almost always not the case.

Take me for example. I abhor appearing weak. I absolutely hate it, and yet sometimes the pain from this auto-immune disease positively knocks the wind out of me. I walk slower.I don't smile. I have trouble moving out of your way when you say "excuse me" in your rush to get by me in the grocery aisle. And I feel like a burden for that second you glance at me with that judgemental look. It hurts.

Today I am very sad. I see how easy it is in our overly zealous, get-things-done-now society to remember to practice simple kindness with others. Everyone is in such a rush. And if I feel the sting every few months when I suffer a relapse, I hate to think of what the elderly or disabled feel like every day. When I am in chronic pain, I don't have the luxury of taking a day off. I move through it as best I can. But dealing with the pain is not the worst part. The worst part is dealing with the people I run into during the day who get frustrated with me.

Having this disease means that every time I fail to take really good care of myself, get enough sleep, eat organically, pace myself....I crash. For me the first sign is as general malaise. Something feels 'not right.' This is followed by swollen gums and the inability to eat anything other than liquid foods. Then a fever sets in. It lasts from 2-5 days, and never gets above 100 degrees, but it runs me down. Finally, the worst part, is the rheumatoid arthritis. It hurts to get out of bed. It hurts to bend over and tie my shoes. It hurts to walk. It hurts to type. It hurts to do just about everything. It's hard to smile when I'm dealing with this, but I try. I hate having everyone asking what's wrong. I just want to be left alone to manage the pain until it disappears as mysteriously as it arrives.

At the grocery store, I have to ask for help getting the bags in my cart. Sometimes the cashier gives me a look of disdain, as if I am one of those entitled types that is too lazy to lift anything myself. Then, when I try to back my car out of my parking space and must really take my time ( since I can't turn my neck all the way over my shoulder), there will be someone (last night it was a man in a BMW) who will honk their horn at me and give an angry look, as if I were moving at a snail's pace just to cause him grief. Even my daughter is not immune. She's a teen after all, and when I ask for help getting the bags in the house, I get told I'm lazy. I know she doesn't really mean it, but it hurts.

But the gift that this terrible disease has given me, is a new level of patience and understanding of those around me. I don't honk at slow drivers so much anymore. I don't rush to get past the slow person in the grocery store. I wait quietly when someone is backing out of a parking space --and I take the time to say a prayer, instead of curse them under my breath. We all need to be a little more patient. We never know what physical, emotional or mental burdens that person is carrying. We are all fighting a hard battle every day, and we need compassion.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something crazy. As painful as this disease is, I have reached a point where I see it as a great gift. God took this terrible life-sentence and turned it into a blessing. He can do that with anything terrible in our lives. Just ask Him. Two years ago, when I first experienced this disease, I started asking God to show me the silver lining that might be hiding behind the pain and suffering. He did, and continues to. I am not a patient person by nature, but God is using this disease to strengthen me spiritually and emotionally, while the disease itself tries to weaken me physically.He is teaching me patience and trust and faith. The pain itself has won me a deeper compassion for others. Suffering truly is a crucible where God is able to refine us, if only we let Him. I hope you can find the silver linings in your own suffering today.

God bless you.


  1. Keri! You do more in a month than most people do in a lifetime! Take it easy, recharge your batteries! If you don't take care of yourself, how can you help kids! Sometimes a break is a wise and necessary part of a ferocious advocate's game plan!


  2. Have you ever seen the movie "Song of Bernadette"?

    It's about St Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes.

    Very very good movie. Anyway, you remind me of her, she was in a convent for years and silently suffering, a nun who was mean to her from her childhood right into adulthood, never believed her and thought she was an attention seeker. Then, when she was dying (St Bernadette), the older nun found out she had been suffering and in immense pain for many years. She then, if I'm remembering right, was at her side and knew she was in the presence of a saint.

    Makes me want to go watch it right now!

    Thinking and praying for you and the patience of others.

    Sometimes I think the suffering is for others, not ourselves. It is for us to endure and offer up to our Lord, but for others to learn from and themselves grow closer to our Lord.

    Did any of that make sense?

  3. Oh, yeah, here's the link for the movie:

  4. Jamie said it all, praying for you

  5. I have other friends with RA (my maid of honor for example), but you are the only one who has been able to see a silver lining. I think God's purpose may have been two-fold - the condition teaches you important lessons, while your ability to communicate with others teaches us as well. Your suffering is not weakness at all - it is a source of great strength, just not the physical kind.

  6. What a good thing for everyone to remember. Hope you are feeling much better soon.

  7. Are you having a relapse? My prayers are on you! We all love you! <3

  8. Thank you for this reminder to look for the positive - especially in the midst of your own health issues.

  9. 'Thinking of you and hoping you soon feel better. (((hugs)))
    Maria (Canada)

  10. Keri:
    God well knows the pain and fatigue and anxiety that you suffer with your disease yet He is with you every step of the way. It sounds trite but it is true: God does not give you anything you can not manage, with His help. He has burdened your heart for the needs of children in Russian orphanages. What you have seen is seared in your mind forever. He did not do this to torment you, nor did He allow you an illness that would strip your strength without a reason. Your illness forces you to rely on HIM for your strength and direction. The gift of knowledge He gave you makes YOU the perfect person to raise awareness of these children who will never have a chance for a permanent family without your help. HE will be your strength as you plan to establish a permanent settlement in Russia to help heal the minds and souls of these children so desperately seeking a family and belonging of their own. Your weakness is HIS strength, your relinquishment of self desire for HIS desire......all will lead to a successful achievement of all that you desire to make a lasting, positive life altering change for your children. You WILL succeed in identifying children that are available and ready for adoption. You WILL work with those children who need education and love and security to be ready to meet and interact with people who might be their forever families. Your labor of love will result in MANY children finding a family or sponsor to allow them the grace to grow within a family. When you ar tired, you tell us so we can lift you up in prayer. When you need something intrinsic, you tell use so was can put out calls for the very things you need. You are not alone in this dream. Many of us can not move to Russia and support children ready to age out or identify which children would be best suited for the summer foster hosting program here in the states. But many of us can tell you the age/sex of a child we would like to host and commit to getting the program going, with the benefit of attempting to match a child with a particular family profile (2 kids, 1 dog, 1 cat)

  11. I've often joked that if I did not suffer from alcoholism, I'd just be (pardon the language) "an asshole without an excuse." But what I really mean in that tossed-off joke is that I would be an arrogant, egotistical, angry, frustrated, frightened person with no need to get on my knees and ask for help. It probably would not occur to me. This horrid weakness and deadly problem has probably kept me alive in many ways, and kinder than I would normally be...and I'm often not too kind, I'm afraid :-( I am impatient. I am quick to judge. I am also quick to correct myself and know I'm "thinking wrong" and try to take a breather.

    A friend of mine is going through physical hell right now. She had a kitchen accident that left her with a swollen eye and bone break in her shoulder. She cannot do anything for herself - not anything, if you catch my drift, and she is learning how to rely on others for the most basic needs. Now, this cannot happen to me - God knows we do not have the resources to handle such a situation, and He has many ways to teach me similar lessons without tearing my family apart. I don't say it to my friend, but I do pray for whatever wonderful lesson she is going to learn during this terrible, holy time. Because I do believe a great and wondrous opportunity is there. So, what is it? I pray :-) I do not know who I would be without the hellish road of alcoholism, and I actually would rather not find out. I do not think I'd like the results.

    But we take what we are given and we have a choice. Even with God prodding us one way, we always have a choice to buck the lesson and the gift in favor of anger and bitterness. Huh. I'm still doing that in an area or two of my life.

    All I know is: without my broken weakness, God would have no opportunity to display His goodness, greatness, and glory (even in the tiny ways they show though in my shadowed life.) And when I am clear-sighted and clear-eyed and open-eared to perceive it, it's worth all the riches and comforts I can imagine. XOXOXOXO


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