The Art of Suffering

1 Peter 4:12-13 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Turmeric chews, and ginger root remedies

12 Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.

The Disorder

Holy water from Lourdes and anointing oil from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

I have lichen plantus, an autoimmune disorder; my condition was confirmed by a biopsy. It has been an uphill battle, and sometimes I feel like a hopeless case. Last week after giving me over 40 shots of steroids on the lesions of my arms, the dermatologist has referred my case to a skin specialist at UCI (University of California Irvine). The doctor also stopped the light treatments that I was receiving because they triggered itching.  For the last seven months, the condition has not improved;  there is no pain, just excessive itching and unsightly lesions. My daughter’s dog, Paco, suffered from fleas this past summer and, until they got the right treatment, the poor dog would scratch and cry at the same time. This is the only comparison I can make with my condition. I feel like a dog infested with fleas, but, unfortunately for me there is no relief.

The Treatments

Hand calluses developed from scratching

From the beginning of the journey I have tried many home remedies. “You need to eat aloe vera!” This will help cure you, one friend said. The next morning after Mass, she brought me a large prickly branch of the homeopathic plant. As I cut the branch into smaller portions, the sap was slimy and made me gag. I did what I was told; I swallowed two fingers’ worth of the aloe vera while jumping up and down, screaming “I can do this! I can do this!” This caught the attention of my grandson who came running to the kitchen to investigate the matter. “Grandma, what is that?” Lucas pointed to the clear, jelly-like substance. I answered the first thing that came to my mind, “it’s elephant snot.”  I could not continue to swallow the slimy jelly. I felt like I had ingested a slug, so I put the aloe vera into a smoothie instead. Another well-meaning friend gave me liquid CBD. “Just put a few drops under your tongue before you go to bed. I did a lot of research on this, and I know it will work,” he said. It did not. I purchased some ginger root, cut it up and placed it on the lesions that I could reach, but that did not work either. I had holy water from  Lourdes, France and thought for sure that this would do it because I had received a healing in the past. But, sadly, I had no relief.  “You need to take a warm saltwater bath and this will do the trick!” said another friend. This just triggered more itching! I received a package from another friend in Colorado, who is in the CBD business. The package included some medicinal ointment and a slew of chocolate laced with CBD’s. There were no instructions with the candy, so I ate some, thinking it was part of the medicine. It made me feel a little drowsy and I fell asleep. When I woke up from my slumber my teeth were filled with cannabis seeds. I’ve tried turmeric in a soft chew, but to no avail. “You need to bathe in guava leaves, but you must first boil the leaves .” said another friend. With this suggestion I just got a visual of me boiling the leaves and carrying the water upstairs to the tub. I saw “accident” written all over it, so didn’t even attempt it. Then I had an epiphany: I remembered the holy oil that from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This holy oil is almost impossible to come by because it is produced from the oil lamps in the tomb of Jesus. Only the Greek Orthodox have access to this oil. We were at the church  and as soon as I saw a man exit the private door of the Greek chapel, I ran to him and asked for the oil. He gave me a blank look and continued to walk away. I told the ladies I was with that we needed to wait. Sure enough, he came back and when I asked him again, he replied “How many?” We did not want to come across as greedy so we asked for seven bottles. I prayed for a miracle before lathering myself with the holy oil, but when I woke up all my lesions were still visible.

Wisdom 16:12 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

12 For indeed, neither herb nor application cured them,
    but your all-healing word, O Lord!

The Torment

Last week for the first time in months, I cried. I told Mike, “I can’t take this anymore! The itching is too much!”  He was making dinner, and looked at me with great compassion. He said, “It’s going to get better, you’ll see.”  “When? I yelled!” “Soon,” he softly answered.” At that point I did not care about my disorder; I was ashamed of my selfish behavior. I walked out of the kitchen and into our family room. I sat on the couch and thanked God for Mike, then  lifted my top and scratched my back.

Trusting God

The God that I serve will neither leave me nor forsake me. I am being tested, not only to trust God, but to develop patience. God knows how I suffer from impatience. Another lesson the Lord is teaching me is to offer up my suffering for others. My condition is not contagious, or life-threatening, and for that I am grateful. During the seven months with this disorder I had forgotten to invoke the army of saints to intercede on my behalf. I am calling on St. Rita of Cascia, the saint of lost causes or impossible cases;  St. Jude, saint of desperate situations; and St. Anthony, saint of skin diseases, to plead on my behalf. I am learning to suffer in silence and to offer up the discomfort for those who are experiencing life threatening trials. In the end the battle belongs to the Lord. Please pray for me.

James 1:2-4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

 The Value of Trials and Temptation

Perseverance in Trial. Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

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