It seems to me, though I am not one to speak with any authority, that one of the difficulties one faces when suffering is the struggle with the thoughts, particularly the lying thought that one’s present state of pain will continue indefinitely, that somehow this is the way one’s life is and the way it will always be. This crushing temptation from the enemy may well be, for sensitive souls, among the most difficult to combat. But if one remains attentive to the present moment, even if one sees it through the blurred prism of tears, one may dispel the lie.
For there is a grace that surrounds us all, a grace which permeates all that we do. There is a grace in which we live and move and have our being. It is a grace which fills all our joys, all our sorrows, all our well-being and all our hurt. It is a grace that does not leave us in our sin, and a grace that moves our well-doing. There is a grace, sweeter and more delicate than the soft, whispering caresses of a mother with her infant. There is a grace, stronger and harder than adamantine steel. It flows in us, through us, toward us and from us. It is the grace of a bloody Friday afternoon and the grace of Tabor’s light, the grace of an open tomb and the grace of ascension.
But like the object which darts in and out of one’s peripheral vision, one does not see this grace unless one is attentive and still. One may catch a flash of it, in the divinely ordained words of a daughter reminding one of Jesus’ indwelling in one’s heart. Or one may catch it in the glint of refracted light, in the material and financial provisions given in one’s need by those who love to one who needs love. One may call it providence, prevenient grace, the goodness of the philanthropic Triune God. But whatever one may call it, one will never capture it.
It is good and sweet and ineffably kind, but untameable, uncontrollable, wild. Put simply, it is love. A love by which, in our quiet, summer evening moments, when the sun has begun to set and the fireflies flit through the yard, we are grasped with an ache deeper than eternity, that goes down so deeply into us, we marvel we are not undone. But there we are, preserved whole, preserved by this love, preserved in this love, and preserved for this love. It is a love that promises us, in the midst of our dark night, all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
Attentiveness to this grace, this world-founding love, is difficult, unutterably difficult, when the cacaphony of one’s own sighs and cries, of evil deeds done against one, of the labyrinthine cruelty of human bureaucracy, compete and often drown out the meson of the theanthropic hymn. In suffering, the battle rages in one’s thoughts. Ever attentive there, one may put the light of truth on the devil’s lies. One may spit in his face, and, through tears and clenched teeth, grind out, “I do not believe you. You’re a liar.”
And if one can struggle against these mind-numbing distortions, there one will find that grace, the love one both seeks and needs. And sometimes, in tender mercy, one will find yet again that warmth in the center of one’s chest, that sweet ache of burning, which signals the presence of the Great Love, and one may read again thereon one’s secret name.