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When suffering and trust co-exist

I remember sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament with tears streaming down my face. We were over a year into our bout of secondary infertility and on this particular day, the deep ache in my chest felt especially heavy to bear. In the silent stillness of that chapel, I heard the Lord’s voice speak gently and kindly to my heart these words: “I am goodness”.

I was mystified and a bit irritated by this response. I suppose I was expecting something more comforting - maybe some mystical reassurance that I wouldn’t carry this cross forever, or even acknowledgement of my own belovedness regardless. I’ve come to understand that this moment, these words, were the Lord’s invitation to truly begin trusting Him, and in doing so, to ultimately find the comfort I so desperately sought. Jesus was inviting me to know in my heart what I had long professed with my lips and believed in my head: the promise that He is always there, that He is working all things (even the suffering) for my good, that even when it feels impossible, He has a plan and a purpose. That he is a GOOD Father.

Within the darkness of my woundedness and the sadness of infertility, I had begun to believe the lies that took up occupancy rent-free in my head most days. Things like:

“I’m being punished or taught a lesson.”

“I’m abandoned.”

“I’ll never experience contentment or joy within this reality.”

“It’s all on me.”

“My family is less valuable without more children.”

The more I allowed these thoughts to accompany me into my day-to-day life, the more bitterness, resentment and desperation I felt. Yet, with that one surprising statement, “I am goodness,” the Lord had nudged open the door to the truth. It became a mantra I returned to many times over the following months as I pondered what the statement meant for me personally. I began to look for the proof. To seek out ways, big or small, that I could see God’s faithfulness to me. It was the only way I could think of to reconcile the truth of His goodness with the reality of my suffering. Could they truly co-exist? I began asking to see it. I slowly shifted from begging God for a baby to resolutely asking for my heart to be healed from all of the hurt and the doubt it was immersed in.

I watched God show up for me, sometimes in big ways but often in the smallest and most intimate of ways: words coming at the exact right time; a beautiful sunset; the kindness of a stranger when I most needed it. The more I considered, the more I realized that if it was true, if God is indeed goodness, it meant that all of the other beliefs were false. It couldn’t work for God to be goodness and yet be punishing and abandoning me, that He could be goodness and I could be left in want. As I began to seek this truth, and then to believe it, and finally to proclaim it over myself, the most amazing thing happened. God gently and patiently restored our relationship. And while the desire for a baby didn’t quiet or quell, a tide of peace rose up in my heart amidst the longing. It didn’t come from a solution, or answered prayer, but from simply striving daily to trust without hesitation, the goodness of my Father. It was my first real experience of that co-existence of suffering and peace which is so often read about in the lives of saints like Maximilian Kolbe, who lifted up hymns of praises from within the walls of a concentration camp.

This school of trust is one in which I am still enrolled and the act of vulnerability it takes to pray those words “Jesus, I trust in you” and mean it is still one I struggle with on a regular basis. Recently, though, I began reading Sr. Faustina Maria Pia’s book Jesus I trust in you: A 30 Day Day personal retreat with the Litany of Trust. This book has renewed my desire to truly trust Jesus, and on the especially tough days, to pray the words of scripture “I believe, help my unbelief”. I highly encourage you, dear sister, to pray this litany and to make the personal retreat with the book, if you’re able to. If nothing else, consider making a daily commitment to praying just the fourth line of the litany, which says

“From the fear that trusting you will leave me more destitute, deliver me Jesus.”

This fear was personally one of my biggest obstacles to trust, and to praying as our Lord taught us, “thy will be done.” I would pray the words (and sometimes still do) begrudgingly, wondering in my heart if God’s will would mean heartache, or being left without.

That’s the thing about trust, though. When given freely and wholly, it opens within us the capacity to truly be loved, freely and wholly. And when you are actively receiving such a love, it is impossible to be left wanting or unsatisfied. It can feel so out of reach but to trust greatly doesn’t take great feats so much as an acceptance of one’s littleness. For it is in places of littleness, of wanting, of emptiness that we can most receive. As Sister writes in her book, “Just as Jesus’ emptying brought deeper love, so too will our willingness to be emptied for His sake be a way to receive His love.”

So, fear not sister. In those places of littleness and longing and emptiness, press into TRUST. And please know that in the remaining days of my retreat with the Litany of Trust, I will be praying specifically for YOU: for your healing, for the restoration of anything infertility seems to have stolen away, for the goodness of God to flood your heart and the provision of a Good Father to fill your life.

You are worthy. You are loved. You are good - not in some future version of your life, but where you are, right now, in this moment. And you always will be.

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