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Patient suffering

Is that possible?

Our word “patience” comes from a Latin word, patientia, the willingness to endure suffering. Sick people in hospitals and clinics are called patients because they are willing to suffer, even for a long time, in order to be healed eventually.

Life isn’t often what we want it to be. In fact, it can be downright unfair, and some of us receive more than our fair share of pain, loss and suffering.

In a certain way, it’s easier to endure suffering when it is inflicted on us by life. It’s not so easy to deliberately choose to be patient. But, often, we are called upon to choose patience, even if we are reluctant to do so.

There have been times when I’ve turned to God and prayed, “Lord, give me patience – and give it to me now!” Isn’t it true that you and I have schedules and agendas that differ from God’s? Isn’t it true that many times we think we could have done things in better ways than God? Patience is the power and the strength to turn to God and ask for his power and his strength. Patience is the willingness to make God’s ways our ways.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life as a priest that I’ve had a young man or a young woman in my office wondering if they will ever find “the one” – their destined mate for life. There’s a long, slow, hidden suffering in such souls. They long to be married, have a home and a family and a soul mate for life – but one has not yet appeared. My heart goes out to such folks. I know of the longing loneliness of which they speak.

Then there are parents of young men and women who are on the other side of the world serving in our nation’s armed forces. Joined with them are the boyfriends and girlfriends of those serving in our military. They all need major doses of patience. They all learn to develop strong prayer lives. They all share in the patient longing of God – who waits for us to turn to him, to seek him out, to draw close to him and to love him.

The heart of God has known such feelings. St. Matthew tells us that, just before he began his terrible suffering, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives – looking out over at Jerusalem in all of her beauty and crying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matt 23:37) God knows the sadness of long suffering.

When you must patiently endure loss and suffering, know that God is close to you. God the Son, Christ Jesus, has been there – he knows what you are patiently enduring. Give him your heart and he will give you his.