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This is from a colleague of mine, Bradley Nassif, who teaches theology at North Park University. Brad is an Eastern Orthodox theologian.

My mother, Lydia, only had an 8th grade education and waited tables
for a living.  She was poor and had 4 children to raise alone.  A
tragic thing happen to her when she was 50 years old.  She became
crippled for life after a surgeon made a horrifying mistake while
operating on her feet.  The doctor confused her with the wrong patient
or procedure.  Mom originally went into the hospital to correct a
hammer toe that was bothering one of her feet.  Instead, the doctor
ended up removing a massive area of her feet related to the metatarsus
that attached her toes.  After the surgery she could no longer wiggle
any of the toes or keep steady when standing because the connecting
parts had all been removed.  Several bones were left jagged which poked
her flesh from the inside of her feet.  Often at night she would wake
up with throbbing pain.  Medicine helped take the edge off the pain but
there was always a constant numbing or buzzing in her feet from the
nerve endings that had been cut. 



Mom had ten corrective surgeries
after that to try to fix the initial mistake but without success.  She
went from a shoe size 7 to a size 3 ?.

Mother was never able to go
back to work after that so the pressure of her financial needs fell
largely on us kids.  She went to a lawyer to seek justice.  The lawyer
told mom that the doctor claimed he had lost the original x-ray that
was taken “before” the surgery so her case could not be proven.  That
x-ray would have showed two perfectly good feet that did not need the
surgery which the doctor had wrongly performed on her.  So instead of
receiving a just settlement, mother was awarded a meager $900.00.  Five
years later, the lawyer died of cancer. 

In a chance meeting, mother
ran into his secretary on the street and was told that her lawyer
accepted a bribe from the doctor’s insurance company and that is why
she lost the case.  We did all we could for her, but for the rest of
her life Mom lived with severe chronic pain until her death in 2002 at
the age of seventy-nine.

Some of us have to endure great trials for
long periods of time.  For reasons that are sometimes known only to the
Almighty, God allows great evil to come into our lives.  Like the story
of Job in the Old Testament, our faith is severely tested.  We are
called upon to live with a great mystery, the mystery of suffering. 
That is why mother’s story is worth telling during this season of our
Lord’s great Passion and Resurrection.  Hers was a life of faith.  She
needed faith to believe that God was somehow working his purposes
through her physically ruined life; she needed faith to forgive the
doctor that had so brutally wronged her through his negligence; she
needed faith to fight evil thoughts of revenge that bombarded her soul
day after day; she needed faith to let herself be helped by others when
she seemed unable to give back so little; she needed faith to overcome
the worry of losing her home when the bills came due; she needed faith
in God’s final judgment where, on the Last Day, “the books will be
opened” and justice will be given to all the unjust people that harmed
her during the most vulnerable time of her life.

During this sacred
season of divine suffering, the good news of the Gospel gives great
hope to those of us who know the sorrow of unjust suffering.  We can
not always know why God allows us to suffer, but our Orthodox faith
tells us that He is accomplishing redemptive purposes through it.  Our
Paschal liturgy proclaims “Through the cross, joy has come into all the
world … Christ is Risen!”  And because of that, I suffer, but do not
despair whenever I recall the life of my dear mother.  Her grief ended
seven years ago as she fell asleep in the arms of her Lord, who Himself
suffered unjustly on her behalf.  And one day I, too, will join her
when I die in faith and in hope of the Resurrection.  This is the “good
news” of the Gospel that is so clear and central to the Orthodox
faith.  I invite you to embrace it for yourself today.

Bradley Nassif, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies
North Park University

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