Sunday, October 25, 2020 -
So many people suffer regularly from pain and infirmity, including my dear wife, Kathie. A third of the letters in “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence deals with such suffering. The last being written two days before he himself took sick and died.
He wrote one acquaintance, “I’m not asking God to take away your suffering, but I do ask earnestly that He will give you strength and patience to bear it for as long as He wants you to. Comfort yourself with Him who keeps you fastened to His cross. He will release you from it when He sees fit. Happy are those who suffer with Him. Get yourself used to suffering this way, and ask Him for the strength to endure as much and for as long as He judges you need. Worldly people do not understand these truths, and no wonder they don’t, since they look at suffering as part of nature rather than as a gift from God. Looking at it in this light, they find only pain and distress in suffering. But those who look at sickness as a gift from God’s hand, the effect of His mercy and the means He uses to bring about their salvation, can usually find in sickness a sweet emotional comfort.
“I wish you could convince yourself that God is often in some sense nearer to us and more effectively present when we are sick than when we are healthy. Depend on no other doctor, for, s I understand it, He wants to be the one who cures you. Put all your trust in Him, and you will soon see the effects of this trust in your recovery. Sometimes we take longer to get well when we rely on medicine rather than God.”
“Whatever medicine you do take, it will heal you only so far as he lets it. When our pain comes from God, only He can heal it. He often sends diseases of the body to cure the diseases of our soul. Take comfort in the greatest Physician of all for both the soul and the body.
“Be satisfied with whatever condition God has given you. However happy you may think me, I envy you. Pain and suffering would be a paradise for me if I suffered them with God, and the greatest pleasures would be hell to me if I enjoyed them without Him. My greatest comfort would be to suffer something for His sake.
“Soon, I will be going to God. What comforts me in this life is that I see Him now by faith, and sometimes I see Him so clearly that I can say, ‘I no longer believe, but I see.’ I feel what faith teaches me, and in that confidence and that practice of faith, I will live and die with Him.
“Stay always, then, with God; it is the one thing that will support and comfort you during this time of sickness. I will ask Him to be with you.”
In still another letter he wrote, “If we were more used to exercising the presence of God, all our physical sicknesses would be helped. God often allows that we suffer a little to cleanse our souls and to teach us that we are dependent on Him.
“Take courage; offer Him your pain over and over; pray to Him for strength to endure it. Above all, get in the habit of taking pleasure in God’s presence, and forget Him as little as possible. Adore Him in the midst of your weakness, offer yourself to Him from time to time, and when you hurt the most, ask Him humbly and lovingly (the way a child asks his father) to help you submit to His holy will…
God has many ways of drawing us to Himself. He sometimes hides Himself from us; when that happens, faith alone, which will not fail us in our time of need, ought to be our support, the foundation of our trust in God alone.
“I don’t know what God wants to do with me. I am always happy. Everybody else experiences pain and suffering while I, who deserve the most severe discipline, feel such constant great joy that I can scarcely contain myself…”
In another letter to the same woman, he told her, “I hate to see you suffering for so long. What comforts me and sweetens my distress is that I know your pain is proof of God’s love for you. Look at your sickness this way, and you will bear it more easily… Don’t ask God to take away your pain, but instead ask Him for strength to beat it courageously, for the love of Him, for as long as He wants. Love eases pain, and when one loves God, one suffers joyfully and courageously for His sake.”
On another occasion, he wrote to the same, “I give thanks to our Lord that you are feeling a little better, as you wished. I have been near death often, but I was never so contented as then. That’s why I didn’t pray for relief, but for strength to suffer with courage, humility, and love. Ah, how sweet it is to suffer with God! However great the suffering may be, endure it with love. It is paradise to suffer and be with Him. If we wish to enjoy the peace of paradise in this life, we must get it the habit of familiar, humble, and loving conversations with Him. We must keep our minds from wandering away from Him for any reason. We must make our heart a spiritual temple where we adore Him continually. We must watch ourselves constantly, that we don’t do or say anything that might displease Him. When our minds are busy like this with God, suffering will become full of healing and comfort.
Finally, two days prior to his own unforeseeable death, he penned the following to the same person: “The worst afflictions only seem unbearable when we see them from the wrong light. When we see them as given to us by the hand of God, when we know that it is our loving father Who subjects us to humiliation and distress, then our suffering loses its bitterness and even becomes a source of comfort.
“Let our only business be to know God; the more one knows Him, the more one wants to know Him. And since our knowledge is usually the limit of our love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge is, the greater will be our love; and if our love for God were great, we would love Him just as much in pain as in pleasure.”
“… I hope through the mercy to be allowed to see Him in a few days. Let’s pray for each other.” He was granted his wish, at somewhere between the age of 77 and 83 - - nobody knows for certain.