PAIN AND CHOICE by Lolita Jardeleza

How I love that saying, "Pain is inevitable but misery is optional." I definitely am one of those people who do not like to suffer more than I have to. I fully believe that trying to live life without suffering is like trying to take a shower without getting wet. But you will not catch me volunteering for more suffering than is already built-in in life. What suffering life sends me I will join to the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, hopefully, with a gracious spirit but I do not believe in horsehairshirts and self-flagellation. I think our enjoyment of God's blessings also please God when we do it for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31)

That is why I have latched on to humor as a pain-reliever as are prayer and looking at things philosophically. I try to see if another angle might diminish suffering. For example, "Why do I think this new arthritic pain in my knuckle is painful? If I thought it was pleasurable, would I still think of it as pain?" So while I'm experimenting with those attitudes, Iam distracted long enough to not feel the pain for the duration of the distraction.

I have also reflected on what causes us the most pain. I thought that maybe if I identified all the things that could bend me out of shape, I would somehow learn how to deflect them the way the Shaolin monks deflected spears in "Kung Fu."

Surely for me, the loss of Papa. To be separated by eternity from the person who held life's meaning for me took everything I had to make sense of living. Loneliness is hideous. There is simply no way we can get around the soul-shredding grief that comes from losing someone we love dearly in death.

There is a pain in missing those we hold dear from whom we are separated by distance. Happily, e-mail allows us to stay bonded in mind and heart from day to day. The love and relationship can keep thriving because the investment of time and caring remains unabated.

Ongoing silence from the ones we love is the subtlest and the most painful rejection of all. But one learns to live with it. We do not have to accept the punishment others deal us because it gives them a sense of power.

Silence is a spear I can deflect.

Loss of friendship is painful. Without explanation, without rhyme nor reason, someone you thought and valued as a friend is no longer there. Thankfully, I have never lost a friendship though because I have never put my end of the friendship down. "He drew a circle that shut me out Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout / But Love and I had the wit to win / We drew a circle that took him in." (Edwin Markham)

Physical pain and loss of health are major crosses. Yet we take good health for granted and merrily abuse our bodies as if we were invincible. So we take care of our health as assiduously as we care for our possessions because health is a primary asset.

Loss of material things we value is nothing to sniff at either. It is an ongoing struggle not to be attached to the things we own. So we meet and get acquainted with St. Francis' Lady Poverty.

Failure doesn't faze me because failure is my familiar as well as my teacher. Churchill said, "Success is never final. Failure is never fatal.

It is courage that counts." I claim I have never failed because I'm stillin here trying.

Criticism, disapproval, insult, anger - all hurt. And so we turn to "Do good to those who hurt you. Bless those who curse you." And constantly I remind myself that WE LOVE GOD AS MUCH AS THE PERSON WE LOVE THE LEAST.

Feeling that we don't measure up, that we fall short, that we are inadequate nags even the strongest of us. So God says, "My grace is sufficient for thee" and I can say, "When I am weak, then I am strong," for God's power is made perfect in my weakness.

Spear, deflect. Arrow, deflect. Bullet, deflect. We have that choice - we are not at the mercy of life. We are bigger than life.

LONELINESS by Christopher Notes

"Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone, and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone." This comment by theologian Paul Tillich points out how much our feelings color our experience.

To be lonely is to feel isolated - cut off from others and locked into ourselves. It is to feel loss and sadness and self-pity.

But to experience solitude is to be alone with something, such as a book or music - or with God, in meditation or prayer. It is to feel peace and well-being.

To turn loneliness into solitude, we need to concentrate on something outside ourselves. That's why prayer can free us from isolation. It connects us with the beautiful and the universal, with God.

O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet You are enthroned on the praises of Israel. In You our ancestors . . . trusted, and You delivered them. (Psalm 22:2-4)

When the "lonelies" come, God my companion, console me.

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