“Day and night you give me over to torment”

As the days grow fewer and fewer until baby Anthony’s birth date and my upcoming c-section, I’ve been thinking about pain. More, it’s been cropping up again and again in my reading. Specifically I’ve been finding passages that speak about acceptance of suffering and physical trials. I don’t really have much to say on my own behalf; but I wanted to collect and share the words that I have been pondering.

First, my friend The Philosopher Mom writes about her struggles with chronic back pain: It’s the Back Talking. Although her particular circumstances are nothing like mine, still I find comfort in her reflections about her struggles.

For me my fears of future pain are twofold. First there is the pain of the actual procedure. But that is a short ordeal and while I dread it I know it will be over with in not too much time. But the weeks of recovery are when I find myself short tempered and crochety, unable to bear with others’ frailties. For me this period is not so much about the physical pain as that’s fairly manageable with pain medication; but it’s about the frustrations of recovery and the physical limitations that having had surgery imposes on me. For six weeks I can’t do most physical tasks. (And in my previous experiences even when the doctor gives me the green light, I still have to ease my way slowly into being more active. Too much time on my feet trying to get housework done results in pain and fears that I’m causing myself internal injuries.) I know other people seem to recover from c-sections much more rapidly than I do; but this has been my experience and I don’t expect it to be much different on the 4th go round.

So I dread most of all what the feeling of being out of control, what the inevitable chaos and mess and lack of routine, do to my inner peace. In the past I’ve done a lot of lashing out at everyone around me and especially at my poor mom who is so very generous with her time and energy in flying up here from Texas for weeks to help out with everything I can’t do.

The Philosopher Mom concludes: “Slowly, I want my heart to stretch so that all my burdens are truly light.” Me too.

In a similar vein was this article about Gabrielle Giffords shared by the Anchoress which describes how, though in the ICU and in critical condition, a loving wife is able to reach out and give her husband a neck rub. The Anchoress comments:

This is what love calls us to: to reach outside of ourselves, beyond our own interests and our own pains, in order to succor another � no matter what kind of shape we�re in, no matter if our world has been upended.

You see, my greatest fear is not the pain itself but that I will once again find myself trapped in that place where I can’t reach beyond myself to succor those I love.

And finally there was this passage from Leaving My Beloved Children Behind by Takashi Nagai, dying of radiation-induced leukemia and contemplating the certainty that he will soon leave his two children as orphans, he ponders their having to drink the bitter cup that is the lot of orphans:

Anyone can drink the bitter cup that fate hands them if they reach the spiritual state of ‘resignation’. However, it is impossible to drink the bitter cup with great joy just by being resigned to it. For this, it is necessary to have complete faith in Divine Providence. Both the sweet wine and the bitter wine are the greatest gifts from God in his Divine Providence. The reason I’ve been given the bitter cup now is that God knows that that is precisely what is necessary for my happiness just now. If someone else got a sweet cup now, it’s because God deliberately gave it to him or her since that is what’s necessary for his or her happiness. God wants to keep every person that he created in a state of true happiness, and prescribes the ‘cocktail’ that is appropriate for each occasion and situation. He is actually prescribing medicine. Since I am a physician, I know well how hard it is to write prescriptions. We give gentian bitters to patients who have stomach-aches. We have to give a bitter medicine to soothe the patient’s aching stomach. A physician doesn’t feel sorry that a patient suffering from a stomach-ache has a bitter medicine and give him sweet red bean soup to eat instead.

We give sweet cough syrup to patients who have a cold with a cough and sputum because they need something sweet. If we give these patients bitter medicine, ignoring the symptoms because we believe a good medicine is supposed to be bitter, then what happens to them? To patients, sweetness or bitterness is an irrelevant issue; they should be given the most suitable medicine to cure them from illness. Patients would or would not be thankful because of the flavor of a medicine. Almighty God may not have any trouble prescribing the best medication for patients without trying one thing or another. Since his decision is based on almighty love, it is always the best choice.

I want to drink the bitter cup of suffering and dependence with great joy. I want to be able to surrender myself with complete confidence to trust in Divine Providence, knowing that my Heavenly Father will provide for all my needs. I want to learn how to accept imperfect help. And yet I know that, being weak, I will almost certainly fail. That knowledge fills my heart with sadness.

And so I find myself turning again to the great treasury of the Psalms. The second psalm from today’s Morning Prayer includes the line: “Day and night you give me over to torment,” but then promises: 

The Lord is our savior;
we shall sing to stringed instruments
In the house of the Lord
all the days of our life.

And so once again I must remember that my strength and my courage is the Lord. My own strength will never be sufficient but his will be.

“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

 

Update

More thoughts on pain here.

And then one more quote: �What does it matter if I fall every moment? By that I learn my weakness, and therein I find great profit. My God, you see what I am if you don�t hold me in your arms.� ~St. Therese of Lisieux

4 Responses to “Day and night you give me over to torment”

  1. Erika January 18, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Thank you for these passages, Melanie. I will be contemplating them often… It is good to have company on the way.

  2. priest's wife January 19, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    Pain is a tough one- that God the Church teaches about sanctifying grace!

    As silly as it might sound, don’t forget to offer pain to God, to poor souls in purgatory, for a specific intention…it will help

  3. Melanie Bettinelli January 19, 2011 at 4:28 am #

    Erika,

    You’re very welcome. And always in my prayers.

    priest’s wife,

    Definitely not silly.

  4. Idoya Munn January 24, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Thanks so much for posting this link, I read the whole interview and then clicked on the “testimony” link – I was deeply moved by both. I will definitely be writing about it one day. It is something I feel like I will spend the rest of my life learning. And somehow, facing death through some one else’s experience of it takes away the fear. What a beautiful man.

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