Christ on the cross and His resurrection are what we turn to for strength and to fight the temptation of falling into despair. By these two things we can see and know that God has a plan which is why He allows suffering and that this plan is always for our benefit and happiness. If we knew all things we wouldn’t need faith, if we had everything we wouldn’t need hope, and if we did not have to express these two things and persever despite how things may seem to look hopeless would not need love. Trials and sufferings are not signs of God’s hatred but rather signs that God’s calls us to a greater and active love.
I like to think God’s plan always has a point. You learn something. Sometimes it is a hard lesson to learn, sometimes it is easy. God will never give us more than we can handle. Whether it is sad or happy look for the lesson.
Firstly, I have been in the position of knowing someone close who was terminally ill. I don’t think there are any words you can say which will make it all better or “all go away”. If someone is going to die, there is not alot we can do about it. We can pray and sometimes God works miracles - many cures have happened - but most of the time God lets things run their course.
Our focus must be eternal life, rather than this one. Death and illness are always hard to deal with, but for someone who has faith and is surrounded by those who do, it can be a lot easier. When we have faith and have recieved the sacraments, we can hope in the mercy of God and I have seen many accept their imminent deaths with calmness and serenity which only faith can bring. So I would not underestimate the importance of prayer. People tend to think of practical things; things to say, things to do for a person - and they do not rely so much on prayer. I can tell you that there has never been a situation in my life where I was left unaided by our Lady, when I faced troubles, did not know what to do/say, was worried etc. Praying the memorare has pulled me out of so many difficult situations that it seems miraculous when I look back. I have never been let down.
So my advise if you know someone going though a difficult time, is to prayer for them, and pray to know what to say and do. Heavenly advice is better than any advise I or anyone else is likely to give. You may even look back and think “why was I so anxious” about whatever the situation is. When you pray, problems have a habit of resolving themselves.
It is difficult to talk about deeply, touching events at the moment they are being experienced. The time to think them thu is when we are in a balanced emotional frame of mind and can think clearly. And if we do this, then those hard hitting moments will be handled much better because of the foundation of support previously built.
Waiting for the moment of suffering to figure things out is difficult because our mind is cloudy with pain. That is why we need to read, ponder, and think during easier times. We need to prepare. Good spiritual books are around that deal with handling bad situations.
However we are never fully ready, but a sympathetic, understanding word helps.
I once heard a good point made…do dogs complain about their owner’s plan? Not that we are dogs, of course, rather that we know no more of God’s mind and design than our dogs know of ours.
I think the idea of God’s “plan” is made to be too simplistic sometimes. We already know what God’s plan is, spelled out in the Bible and the teaching of the church. What we are really meaning is what interaction with the divine has caused things to happen in life, for good or for ill. We forget that we see these events with such great intimacy, so that we make the mistake of forgetting they happen on a timeline vaster than anyone’s life. If we were blessed or cursed with the ability to live for thousands of years, we would see all the people around us grow old and die, regardless of their state of life.
So, if we lose a person through tragedy (and make no mistake, that tragedy is very real and painful), it is just that we are made aware of the end of their life in a narrower snapshot of time than we would expect.
That said, we are not blessed/cursed to also know everything and why it happens. My wife and I are adoptive parents, as I am infertile. When we found that out after several years of trying, it was unbelievably painful, especially when my sister-in-law and her husband were blessed with a child not too long after (sin of envy, I know). While I won’t go into the whole story (very convoluted), another person’s grave sin years ago (which left his own wife in grave doubt, but they have been reconciled, praise God) made it possible for us to have our son and in turn give him a loving, secure life. At the low points of this puzzle, no one understood why these painful things happened, yet in the rearview, they are crystal clear.
Heard a great discussion about St. Veronica today on the radio, about the significance of her act, in that she restored dignity to Christ, who was dirty, bloody, battered, just by the simple act of cleaning his face…in that she restored a sense of humanity to Him.
The gist of it was that what we should do is when we go to visit people who are in the hospital, who are homeless, in prison, etc, is not to look at the IVs in their arm, their dirty and torn clothes, or their jumpsuit, but to look at them in their eyes, see them as a person, not their trappings. Often this is just the first step, but if we’re not able to humanize a person we’re trying to help, what are we really able to do?
Otherwise, just taking even small burdens off of a person can be a huge help, I agree.