Saturday, March 17, 2007

Practice of God's Presence: 13th letter

Thirteenth Letter: I am sorry to see you suffer so long. What gives me some ease and sweetens the feeling I have about your griefs, is that they are proof of God's love for you. See your pains in that view and you will bear them more easily. In your case, it is my opinion that, at this point, you should discontinue human remedies and resign yourself entirely to the providence of God. Perhaps He waits only for that resignation and perfect faith in Him to cure you. Since, in spite of all the care you have taken, treatment has proved unsuccessful and your malady still increases, wait no longer. Put yourself entirely in His hands and expect all from Him.

I told you in my last letter that He sometimes permits bodily discomforts to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage. Make a virtue of necessity. Do not ask God for deliverance from your pain. Instead, out of love for Him, ask for the strength to resolutely bear all that He pleases, and as long as He pleases. Such prayers are hard at first, but they are very pleasing to God, and become sweet to those that love Him.

Love sweetens pain. When one loves God, one suffers for His sake with joy and courage. Do so, I beseech you. Comfort yourself with Him. He is the only physician for all our illnesses. He is the Father of the afflicted and always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we can imagine. Love Him in return and seek no consolation elsewhere. I hope you will soon receive His comfort.

I will help you with my prayers, poor as they are, and shall always be yours in our Lord.


Are you as appalled by this letter as I? I admit to having a hard time reading it. I find myself remembering, though, that Br Lawrence lived in the 17th century and medical practice then was so very different. Blood letting and herbs, if I am not mistaken, were all that was available. And considering that they knew nothing of germ theory, one can imagine the infections as a result of the bloodletting. Additionally, we must contextualize the letter and remember that he lived in a day when God was considered the direct agent of everything that happened. We now know that illness is a result of germs, Br Lawrence did not. So let us set aside the medical aspects of this letter and look for the positives we can glean.

Surely it is better for us in illness and suffering to concentrate on God's love of us, that personal tender love rather than blame Him? Blaming is very human, of course, and we all do it. But does it ever actually accomplish anything constructive?

Surely it is better for us to ask God for whatever it takes to bear our pain, whatever it takes to get through the day than it is to make others miserable also? Again, we are talking very human stuff here. Certainly, we should ask for the help that we need. And when we are very frightened, we need to be able to honestly express that. Is there room for God in all of this? Where can we make room for him? What would that look like?

How has love sweetened your pain?


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