The other day I scrolled through instagram and stumbled upon an old picture that was recolored from black and white. When I first saw the picture I thought that it might be a picture of a young boy as the person in the photo had short hair, wore a striped shirt, had a large bruise on their face, and a bloody lip. When I went on to read the description I learned that this person was no boy, but a 14 year old Polish girl. The picture was taken in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Right before the picture was taken she had been beaten by severely by an officer. Right after the picture was taken this girl was injected with phenol and murdered. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka.
To be honest I only know a little bit about Czeslawa but her picture showed me a lot. I saw her beaten face, her gleaming eyes. Looking at the photo it made my heart ache. I was looking at the direct result of evil and cruelty in our world as reflected in this girl’s eyes. After looking at the picture a second time I thought about this girl’s last moment and I began to cry.
Czeslawa was a Polish Catholic. She had lost her mother and didn’t even speak the same language as the guards. Thinking about her life and her final moments I prayed why God do you permit such evil? Why do you hide your face? Did she know your love and hope at the end? No one saved her, no one could, and she was murdered. Where was God?
Behold, I make all things new (Rev. 21:5).
While praying and asking God some very hard (and Psalmist) questions I was reminded that in the face of evil God is not absent. In my prayer I was reminded that God does not permit any evil that He will not work through and use to redeem His children.
For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself– Catechism of the Catholic Church #311
God doesn’t cause our suffering and in fact does not want us to suffer! He longs to heal us in order to live life as He intended. The evil and suffering we experience is a result of a fallen world and original sin. It is a result of free will given to us to enter fully into, and freely choose, God’s love.
With this free will, humanity often rejects God’s love. God longs to heal you, to bare fruit from even the sufferings in your life. God comes down to the darkness in our hearts and brings the light of Good News and the promise of heaven. This involves real steps, real trust, real relationships and real healing.
Purpose in the Pain
God cares about your sufferings, your feelings, your memories, your hurt. God cared about Czeslawa. He loved His daughter so much and not for one second did He abandon her. He had a paradise, a peace, a plan like no other awaiting her. She was and is His beloved.
God’s uses our hurt to bear fruit. He wants us to understand our feelings, to invite Him into them, and share them. Even in the face of evil, which God does not cause, He makes beauty, truth and goodness flourish. Our Father as a great gardener takes the manure in our life and produces great fruits with it.
At times we can look at the cruelty of life and forget who our God is. We all do it, I do it. We need continual daily reminders of the Gospel and of God’s plan in the face of evil and suffering. We need daily reminders of the cross and the fruit it bore, our hope of new life and resurrection. God gives us graces, prepares us, reminds us, each and every day of His plan for us. He works through our thoughts, people around us, the Sacraments, His Word, to speak to us daily. He calls us by name as His beloved son or daughter. God does not abandon us.
Czeslawa’s face reminded me that Christ suffered in the same way. Christ was beaten, executed. He was innocent. The reality of our faith is that we have a God who became one of us to experience, feel, think as we do. Jesus shares in our sufferings and is with us in it all. Jesus suffered for us out of love for the Father and for us. He knew that suffering was not a waste and that in Him your suffering is not a waste.
I imagined that Czeslawa’s face looked like Jesus’s face on the cross. In her sufferings, in her unjust and cruel treatment of being thought of as less than human, I saw the face of Christ. He was there in the sufferings. She was not alone. He was holding her, loving her. He is bearing fruit out of her witness and even her portrait. Like her’s, your sufferings are not to be wasted. Christ longs to work in your heart and bear good fruit from even your sufferings. Our Good God is there in your sufferings, He calls you by name, and He longs to begin His healing work in your life today.
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