From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Living in hope, living in poverty

by Jerry Monks, for the Inland Register

(From the March 20, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

The poor in Guatemala and the rest of the world have limited options and must learn to cope with the suffering true poverty can inflict. (IR photo from the Guatemala Commission.)

Our natural tendency is to avoid any kind of pain or suffering. Money helps us do that. We buy distractions of food, entertainment, travel, specialized health care, and so forth. Anything that will take us out of our current misery.

The poor in Guatemala and the rest of much of our world don’t have that option. They have no money for airline tickets or medical specialists. Instead of masking their sorrows with material goods or services, they have to learn to live with them day-in and day-out.

There is a real benefit in learning to live with suffering. Aside from the more noble doctrine of joining with Jesus in offering our pain for the sake of salvation, suffering can strengthen us by helping strip away our distractions. It humbles us. It makes us realize we are not in control. We hurt, and the deeper we hurt, the more we are inclined to turn to God. And the more we turn to God, the closer we come to him and open ourselves to the strength of his grace.

Some people have nurtured their spiritual life to the point where they can welcome suffering — not for the sake of suffering, but for the benefit it yields in keeping their priorities on track. For, as Thomas a Kempis says, the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.

The poor have not chosen to be “economically disadvantaged.” Nevertheless, they have an advantage over the rich when it comes to realizing the spiritual progress that can exist when the distractions of material goods are eliminated. In this, they have much to teach us about priorities and about the benefits of self denial and suffering.

(Jerry Monks is a member of the diocese’s Guatemala Mission committee.)

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