The Cleansing Fire

Since my mother’s death last year I have struggled with Type 2 diabetes as well as overwhelming grief. She lived with us for over 16 years. The change in my life, and my lifestyle due to diabetes, were mountains that I didn’t have the strength to climb emotionally or physically.

But instead of fighting for strength, I fought the change. I raged against God and circumstance. But with His loving patience and promised help, sent through supportive people, my inner and outer battles are slowly making headway toward a truce. I’m laying down my arms and picking up the pace of the dreaded diet and exercise. I now carry eight less pounds to haul up that mountain. It’s not much, but it’s a start. And then I read this by Louis E. Bisch:

* * * * * *

ILLNESS knocks a lot of nonsense out of us. It induces humility, cuts us down to our own size. It enables us to throw a searchlight upon our inner selves and to discover how often we have rationalized our failures and weaknesses, dodged vital issues and run skulking away. For only when the way straitens and the gate grows narrow, do some people discover their soul, their God, or their life work.

Florence Nightingale, too ill to move from her bed, reorganized the hospitals of England. Semi-paralyzed, and under the constant menace of apoplexy, Pasteur was tireless in his attack on disease. The great American historian Francis Parkman is a triumphant prototype of all such conquerors of pain. During the greater part of his life, Parkman suffered so acutely that he could not work for more than five minutes at a time. His eyesight was so wretched that he could scrawl only a few gigantic words on a manuscript, yet he contrived to write nearly 20 magnificent volumes of history.

Even pain confers spiritual insight, a beauty of outlook, a philosophy of life, an understanding and forgiveness of humanity — in short, a quality of peace and serenity — that can scarcely be acquired by the “owner of pure horse flesh”. Suffering is a cleansing fire that chars away much of the meanness, triviality and restlessness of so-called “health”. Milton declared, “Who best can suffer, best can do.” The proof is his Paradise Lost written after he was stricken blind.

—- Written by Louis E. Bisch

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