MSFL Lenten Mercies | Faith and Suffering

By Mary Glazer (Cohort 10) — For some time now, and pretty reluctantly, I have been reflecting on suffering, trying to understand its place in our world and in my relationship with God. I don’t feel any closer to understanding; in fact, often just the opposite. Yet the questions continue to steep in my soul, and there is no shortage of spiritual wrestling taking place. A short time before Lent started, I added a daily prayer: “Jesus, please take me with you into the suffering of the world, and help me to love the world as You do.”

Well, all I can say is, be careful what you pray for!

Here is how the first week of Lent went for me.

Ash Wednesday, at an appointment with my acupuncturist, he is surprised at my low energy and he uses the needles to give my body a boost.

Thursday, fatigue and muscle aches. I think it must be influenza.

Friday, a fairly severe migraine.

Saturday, improving headache and fatigue. I think I’m on the mend.

Sunday morning, I am hit with upper abdominal pain that feels like a gall bladder attack – except my gall bladder was removed years ago. I can’t eat or drink, because both cause significant pain.

Monday morning, still in pain and dehydrated, I go to my doctor and end up in the hospital for two nights with a blocked bile duct – very rare, I’m told. The endocscopy is unsuccessful because the stone is too big. A stent is put in to allow bile to pass through.

Wednesday, a week after the start of Lent, I return home. I will have the stent and stone removed in a few weeks.

IMG_0994In the first week of Lent, I was given physical pain; fasting, then food restrictions; a heightened awareness of how my privileged life gives me access to amazing healthcare; and a deep encounter with my own vulnerability and frailty.

At times during these days, I have prayed into the pain, aware of the pain of so many others in this world – pain without the hope of relief. Too often, I want to curse the pain and my vulnerable body. And, I feel afraid of what I have asked for – to go with Jesus into the suffering of the world. I can’t do it! I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to avoid physical and emotional pain. Who hasn’t?

And yet, during these days of walking with Jesus toward the cross and unbearable suffering – I now know what my Lenten discipline must be. I need to continue to ask Jesus to take me with him into the world’s suffering. I pray this, even though I have no idea what it is I am asking. I pray this, even though I am not sure I have the capacity for how God will respond. I feel like the sons of Zebedee saying to Jesus that of course they can drink the cup he must drink – yet they have no clue (Matt 20:20-23). Inasmuch as I can say yes to that cup, it is only because of grace and a God-given desire to be faithful to the call of the Divine.

What is your experience with suffering in your walk with God?

Are there times when suffering has challenged your faith and your relationship with God?

Where do you see signs of God’s presence and activity in the midst of suffering?

IMG_1493Mary Kay (Cohort 10) is a spiritual director, retreat leader and writer with a heart for people in positions of spiritual leadership. Raised Roman Catholic, she began hanging out with Quakers in 1989 and never left. She and her husband, Mark, live in Wisconsin with their dog Fozzie. They have two adult children. Mary is a graduate of the School of the Spirit’s Spiritual Nurture program and Shalem Institute’s Spiritual Guidance program. She loves to hike, walk with her dog, and play Words With Friends. For more information, check out

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