Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), was an important source for me in my search to understand my anguish. Salvifici Doloris is Latin for “Redemptive Suffering.” That precious Apostolic Letter introduced me to the idea that if I relinquished ownership of my pain to Christ, He might unite my suffering with His own. He could, in fact, give meaning and purpose to my suffering. That is what happened, and it continues to this day.
Multiple sclerosis was the perfect tool to smash my colossal pride and ridiculous sense of self-sufficiency, both of which had kept my faith shallow and small. (It was hard to be proud and self-sufficient when someone else had to dress me, tie my shoes, and cut the meat on my plate.) A new me began to emerge from the waves of my grief, no less vital than the previous man—just different. My chronic illness and serious disability became an integrated part of my life and faith journey. I no longer let them dominate my life.
Instead, suffering taught me how to make an unqualified surrender, to trust Christ when the stakes are horribly high, and to accept what was once unacceptable. Christian suffering on earth is part of the joy of heaven. That’s how it works. Is it worth it? Yes, I believe it is. The long journey in my wheelchair has brought me to a point where I can accommodate that which I cannot control. There is consolation and peace—I am content.
Now, at this late stage in my journey, comes the very real possibility of a cure for multiple sclerosis.