Can there be:Good Suffering? and Good Grief?

What a strange combination of words I selected for my title of this brief essay. I suspect that the words do not seem comfortable together. Creative and good are compatible, but they seem to be hardly at peace with suffering? Hmmm let’s explore this challenging thought for a moment.  The message of creative good suffering seems so filled with possibilities. The words together seem to portray my deep hope. Yes, I hope that somewhere deep within each of us we possess the transformative power, gumption and resilience to be so optimistic to think that we can create a mindset that can turn suffering into something good for ourselves and others. I suppose that this challenge comes from deep within my heart, spirit and soul and perhaps had its profound origin in 1988 when Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, the Archbishop of Chicago, laid hands on me and bestowed the gift of Deacon Holy Orders. He challenged me to be a herald of good news. For the best part of some twenty years I have truly enjoyed creating good news in the face of happy times which is easy, and I worked hard at creatively finding the elusive silver lining when the dark clouds of storms and life’s disasters loom heavy all about.
In worse case scenario situations I have seen death and near death and in the midst of the suffering I have also seen never failing seeds of light, hope and redemption. Yes, I truly believe the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete visits our hearts when invited, when we call out in agony, or pleading intercession. I admit, sometimes it takes creativity to see a pathway out of misery, dark valleys and the shadows of death and pain pressing down on our soul. Creativity can truly bring us out of despair. I find it so uplifting and true: “Suffering may be inevitable, but misery is optional.” Creativity is a gift, an antidote to the toxic poison of suffering in despair alone with no place to go.  Most recently I walked the creative suffering journey of hope with my younger brother who bravely struggled with five cancer locations that wracked his body with agony. The Holy Spirit embraced us until a week ago when this valiant warrior with amazing holy gumption proclaimed creative good suffering news: “I think I am dying, and it is OK.” Our creative good suffering strategy he and I crafted was to pray for a miracle, trust God, embrace each other until the pain goes away, and hope for the best. Creativity helped us develop the strategy: “Either way we win.” His heavenly Easter was a winning homecoming celebration because he creatively invented that reality. His funeral mass was good suffering because God helped us make it that way. His gumption and faith inspire me onward to keep creatively passing on hope.
Five boys who became my friends and teachers broke their necks playing high school football. Now young men, they continue to teach me profound insights and lessons about gumption, resilience and creative good suffering. One quadriplegic boy told me tearfully that once he had wanted to be a car mechanic when he grew up. With a smile and peace that is beyond all human understanding he told me; “Now, with God’s grace and the help of the Holy Spirit I am content and delighted to be a mechanic of the mind, heart, spirit and soul.” He laughed when he said, “Being this kind of mechanic is truly a sufficiently demanding, creative, full-time job.” He went on to share, “It takes real creativity and talent to restore the wreck of a totally paralyzed body that must breathe assisted by a mechanical ventilator. It is hard facing the suffering reality that I can do almost nothing for myself.”  Yes, I am confident in knowing that there is good news: creative good suffering is possible.  I have seen miracle transformations fueled by holy gumption faith, and resilience overpower ordinary suffering.
In her very creative and popular book: “Eat, Pray,Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert takes the reader on a whirlwind, global journey as she attempts to transform an emergent life of painful suffering into something better. Her book gives another witness to the elusive and holy power of transforming pain into creative good suffering. Check out Gilbert’s lecture on the Internet: TED, She gives a powerful witness and a good solid lesson on how to be resilient when faced with suffering that threatens to break your heart and soul. Yes, I am convinced that holy gumption and bounce come from the Holy Spirit. We each have the opportunity to use it, or lose it. Deacons need it, everybody needs it. Pass on the good news, won’t you?

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