Most of my adult life was spent complaining when it came to any kind of pain or suffering—even though the majority of this pain was self-induced and in the form of terrible hangovers. I would whine and complain, asking “Why me?” And when I became ill or was injured I would seek out anybody who would feel sorry for me: wanting them to take care of poor pitiful me. 

I never once asked God for help or relied on the assurance of His healing power and grace. This changed only as a direct result of the miracle of my recovery and the Catholic faith. The Twelve Steps and the sacraments helped clear away my self-centered vision, allowing me to focus my gaze upon the Father’s vision and come to understand the beauty hidden in suffering. 

God seeks out those who will embrace suffering as He did, to use our prayers offered as a living sacrifice for those in need of love and conversion. The popular Catholic saying, “offer it up,” finally began to make sense to me.  Little did I know I was about to be tested as I had never been before.

On August 5, 2020, I was contacted by the Illinois Department of Public Health to inform me that I was exposed to COVID-19 a week earlier and to monitor for symptoms. The very next day I started to have a hoarse, scratchy throat and a pretty bad headache. It was then that I made the decision to self-isolate and get tested since I am the sole caretaker of my 89-year-old mother-in-law. 

My test came back positive on August 9th. Now that I received the positive test result I knew I had two choices. The first was to trust and rely solely upon God and His grace, strength, and healing power. The second was to succumb to the lies and evil tactics of the Devil, which always lead to fear, despair, and hopelessness. I knew well the second of these two choices as I had clung to this option for a long time in active addiction. Fortunately, I chose to surrender the virus and its outcome to God. 

As each day passed, my only source of care and comfort came from our heavenly Father and His beloved Mother. During my experience I became keenly aware of what God was calling me to do: suffer with Him and pray for many things, most specifically for the end of abortion. I offered up many Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary and chaplets to Divine Mercy, repeating many times, “Jesus, help me and those most in need of your love and mercy!”

I listened intently for the soft whisper and gentle guidance of Mary and was able to use this time free of distractions to write and share about the Marian Peace Chaplet. On Saturday, August 15th, my consecration day was spent in solitude with the Blessed Mother pondering in my heart all she had done for me and thanking her for her “yes” to God. I begged that I may always have the courage to say “yes” and trust in her son’s will for me. 

It was also during this time that I felt terrible, having a multitude of symptoms to varying degrees. Truthfully, though, there were many more days during my years of active addiction when I felt a hundred times worse. I am grateful that I had very mild symptoms and I pray for all who have not had it so easy, and for those who have died.

The biggest miracle of all is that no one close to me tested positive and I knew unequivocally, without any reservations, that this was a gift. I am a changed person because of it. I now hug those I love a lot tighter, thanking God from the bottom of my heart for my sobriety, family, and good health.

Have you experienced suffering that has brought you closer to God? How had God used suffering in your life for His greater good and that of others? Might you spend some time pondering the deeper meaning of suffering in this life?

Kathleen Ann, by God’s grace, has been clean and sober since June 1, 2006. She is an active member of AA, CIR, and works part-time as the Project Rachel Coordinator in the Life office at the Diocese of Rockford, where she helps gently and confidentially guide those wounded by abortion to hope and healing in Christ Jesus. On most days you can find her at daily Mass, the gym, or caring for the needs of her family, young and old alike.