EP#4- Suffering (feat. Emily Crossland)

In this episode of the Catholic Influencers Podcast Fr. Rob Galea and Danii Sullivan talk about Suffering.
Danii interviews Emily Crossland, a young woman from country Victoria who shares her own journey of illness and suffering and how she is able to keep her joy and hope through physical and mental illness. 

Emily Logo.jpg

There were times where physically I was unable to do things and then there would also times where mentally I just couldn't get my head around different situations. during those times, prayer was massive. without that, I think I probably would've lost my sanity.



00:04 Hey everybody, welcome to the Catholic influencers podcasts. A conversation to help Catholic influences like you and me to go deeper and further in influencing our world for Jesus, I'm your host, Father Rob Galea and I'm your cohost Danii Sullivan, and we look forward to talking to you today about suffering.

00:37 Wow. Suffering. That's a bit of a sad and difficult subject to talk about. Don't you think? That's exactly my thoughts just then, you sounded so excited. 'We're going to talk about Suffering!' And I'm like, oh. Yeah, well suffering is a bad thing. It's horrible, but it's also inevitable. And we all go through some kind of suffering, but I think there is an attitude change that can happen that can cause us to best suffering better. Um, and it's not. There are people who suffer in different degrees those who are suffering, physical, psychological, emotional. There's so many ways we can suffer.

01:12 Yeah, exactly. And you know, two people could have the exact same type of suffering, but how they handle it is going to help impact how big it is in their life. That's right.

01:21 I think there are a number of factors that I believe that God can use and that can draw us closer to God when we have the right attitude. And I think yes, attitude has a lot to do with how we take up suffering. As a, as a priest, I get to work with a lot of people who suffer. You know, I was a chaplain at a university and I've anointed so many people who are who are dying and suffering. And I can see that people, like you said, Danii, who was suffering from the same kind of thing can have through a different attitude to a different aspect. Those with faith for some reason somehow can face suffering with greater joy, can face death also with greater joy.

02:01 But I think with that same thing that you know, those suffering, if they've got faith, it can also lead to more questions. Like, why am I suffering? I have faith, I've got God on my side, He's with me always. Why would he let me go through this?

02:13 Exactly. And if someone who doesn't have faith, they just have the attitudes, ah, God has abandoned me or God doesn't exist, how could God cause suffering like this? If God is a God of love, why would he allow things like this? So they throw out God and they say, 'this is not right'. Like, there was an inscription in the concentration camps as well. That a Jew had written in the concentration camp. He said, 'If God exists, then he will need to apologise to me'. And so that's profound. That's the human experience. Why would God allow suffering like this? And if we really believe that God causes suffering, then it's understandable that God would need to ask, ask for forgiveness. But God of course doesn't cause suffering. But I believe he does use suffering. He uses our suffering sometimes to draw us closer to the community, draw closer to him, more importantly, but also for the healing of this world.

03:13 If God was afraid of suffering, he wouldn't have allowed Jesus to suffer. You see, suffering is very much a part of life and Jesus knew that. And that's why he didn't shy away from the cross. He didn't shy away from dying on the cross being tortured to death. And one of the things that we believe in the Catholic church is this thing called redemptive suffering that we can unite ourselves with Jesus on the cross when we suffer an offer our pain and offer our suffering to Jesus on the cross. That he might use that for the healing of this world. An interesting concept but very complex isn't it?

03:47 Yeah. I think I know my dad, he's one for saying 'offer it up no' matter. You know, when we were, kids we would complain about things and he'd be like, 'offer it up'. And you know, when I was younger I didn't know what that meant. But as I got older I started to y'know, understand what it meant. I always, you know, was so grateful for my dad for teaching me that as a young age, you know, to offer up whatever you're going through. And sometimes it would be petty things like I didn't get the front seat, but then, you know, the bigger things. He also said to offer that up. And particularly my dad, he'd always ask us to offer it off for the souls in purgatory. And I think that's really beautiful. Like it showed me from very young age that we are bigger than the Church of our family or the Church of our parish. This is a huge church and it doesn't include just us, you know, Church Militant here on earth, but it's also the church in purgatory and to offer things up for them. And that kind of redemptive suffering there.

04:35 Absolutely. And when we offer suffering It becomes a prayer. It becomes an act of intercession and we can win souls through our suffering, especially if you have the right attitude. But what about God causing suffering? You know, like earthquakes and we call them acts of God. Why would God allow suffering? Why would God allow a little child to suffer from cancer? Why would God allow a person to go through a car accident? Why? And we do have these questions as human beings. Do you have any answers to give us?

05:06 I don't, but you're a priest, do you have any answers for us?

05:10 Well, I don't, I don't know that I have answers, but I think what I do understand that at least my understanding of who God is. First of all, I'd start with God is a God of love. God never causes suffering. But he is there with those who are suffering. He's there as people are suffering and he's there with those who are dying, those who have died, but also those who remain and those who are going through grief and pain and loss. So God is present everywhere. So let's talk about free will for a moment. You see, God has given each and every one of us the freedom to use all we are all we have to help others to build ourselves or to destroy others you see free will ultimately is a gift that God is not going to take away because we abuse of it. But at the end of the day we can cause pain. We can cause suffering in the lives of others if we abuse of it. So there's suffering that we cause. But what about natural disasters? You know, I have so many questions about natural disasters.

06:14 Why would God allow people's houses to get destroyed by fires? Why would God allow earthquakes to happen and and tsunamis and things like that and innocent people dying. But you know what, I've thought about this just a little bit. You know, when it comes to suffering and it comes to pain of natural disasters. Natural disasters have been happening for millions and millions of years. And there are tectonic plates and these are moving and God respects. God created nature and God respects nature. And these tectonic plates are not going to stop moving because we started to build our houses by these plates. And so at the end of the day, nature is to be respected and bush fires have been happening for millions of years and they will continue to happen. And as we grow and as we expand our territory, we go into places that there are prone to bush fires and prone to earthquakes. And that is part of God respecting nature. But He's also there in the earthquake because he created the the earth and the tectonic plates, but He's also in those who have died He's also with those who are left homeless. But the thing is then He has left us a responsibility to reach out to those who are broken. So how is God present in those lives of those suffering very often through you and through me, through us reaching out to people.

07:32 Absolutely Father Rob. And when you just said that God is with those that are suffering, there's that scripture verse in revelation where it's, Jesus will wipe away every tear from their eyes and I think that's so beautiful. It's easy to say with natural disasters and even in physical and mental illnesses, it doesn't often look like Jesus is there. But in scripture it promises us that he will wipe away those tears. And I think that's a really important thing to remember through suffering, especially seeing loved ones suffer as well. That's often hard. If the suffering isn't you but it's someone that you love or someone that you care about suffering, then it's just that truth to remind yourself that Jesus is present in this moment and there's something so powerful about seeing someone suffer and seeing the way that they overcome that suffering in the catechism it says that illnesses can make someone more mature. And being able to witness that, being able to witness someone grow through suffering is really beautiful, but then also being able to be that person suffering.

08:26 Yes. That's so much part of suffering is the fact that we don't suffer alone. How important it is for us to be with those who are suffering. That's what Jesus was all about. It was with the poor, he was with the sick, he was with those who are broken and he showed us that it is our example not just to observe suffering but to be with suffering, to walk with suffering, not to be afraid of suffering and this is the symbol of our faith. You know, this is where he draws us to the bloody cross. To the cross which is full of blood and which is full of pain and which is full of suffering. But this is where he draws us, always draws us and tells us not to be afraid of suffering.

09:05 I think Saint Paul is just an incredible example of that. He didn't try to run away from it, he embraced suffering and he saw that that suffering was going to make him more Christ-like. And he just encouraged all those that he wrote letters to, to also embrace it. And see suffering as something to rejoice in because it is making you holy, it is making you more Christ-like because Christ had to suffer.

09:26 Yes. And again, in the suffering of the innocent, in the suffering of those who don't deserve suffering. And the Old Testament for example, it used to be so much clearer because it was God's punishment for those who were away from him. So it's easy, 'oh, okay, we see someone suffering, they must have done something wrong, therefore God is punishing'. But you and I know that it's very often the innocent that are suffering. And then those who are guilty, which we all are in a sense, and those who are living bad lives go away scott free and they're fine and they're not suffering. They're in pain. But yet an innocent child goes through cancer and innocent mum goes through depression. You know? And where is the justice in all of this?

10:10 That's so true Father Rob, it's really hard to understand where the justice can be in that. But I think something beautiful is that, you know, even though we might never understand where the justice i s, we can always look for the grace in that. I think there's such beautiful graces that we can receive through suffering.

10:27 Yeah. This is the amazing thing, that God is in pursuit of those who are suffering. And God doesn't stop loving us when we're in pain, when we're suffering He's actually closer to us, but we don't see it. And then we start to think like, 'God, where are you? Why, why, and why?' And so I don't know. And nor do you know? Nor does anyone know why God allows suffering? But I have seen it time and time again that God uses suffering. I know many people who are suffering. I work with many people who are suffering, but you know what? When I'm around them I just feel like somehow, especially those who have faith, I feel encouraged in my faith. I feel stronger. Their trust in God, their reliance on God just helps me become that little bit stronger. And it's also a reminder to us that at the end of the day, this life is not the end. This life is not everything. We are living for something greater, something bigger, a place where there will be no pain, where there will be no suffering, where they will be no sadness, where there will be no grief. And I think somehow suffering makes us look forward to heaven.

11:33 Absolutely. And back to revelation, Jesus will wipe every tear. We know that any suffering is finite. It has an end because Jesus has promised us that it has an end.

11:44 That's Right. And so at the end of the day, even when we're going through suffering, when we're going through pain, we need to remember, always know even death is not the end. We have something greater, to live for and we look forward to God's healing, God's embrace, God wiping away every single tear from our eyes.

12:03 But we're going to move on I think into the interview right now. We have a wonderful person who we've interviewed today, Emily has been suffering pretty much half of her life, and going through from aneurysms to accidents too. It's just seems like one thing after the other and she's gone through strokes and so much pain, but yet, man, it's such a joy being around her.

12:33 Yeah. She's an incredibly strong woman and just a strong woman of faith as well. And to be able to know her and witness that is truly incredible.

12:40 Yeah. So now here we go forward to the interview with Emily.

12:55 I'm here today with Emily Crossland. Emily is a good friend of mine. And I'm just going to hand over to you now, Emily just to introduce yourself really quickly about who you are and what you do.

13:04 So my name is Emily Crossland. I am 22 years old, nearly 23, and I'm from a little country town called Yarrawonga. I'm a bookkeeper, so I spent a lot of the time behind a desk and then in my spare time I like to work with youth ministry.

13:23 Yeah. So that's actually how Emily and I met. I was working in Diocesan Youth Ministry role actually. It might've been before I even got the job. We met through our Stronger Youth program. So it's really good, small country towns, we can kind of get together through youth ministry and make amazing friends.

13:37 Yeah definitely.

13:37 So Emily, today we're talking about suffering. That's the topic for this podcast. It's not necessarily a fun topic. No one wants to suffer. No one wants to see loved ones suffer. But you have a very, interesting story about your own life. And I was wonder if you could share a little bit about that with us now.

13:54 Yeah. So, two years ago, well just over two years ago, I was at a summer school with Danii and and couple of other friends and I got sick and I ended up in hospital and I was diagnosed with having what's called a TIA or a transient ischemic attack. So a small stroke. I was discharged a few days later and then I was back in hospital within a week, for a whole week and I ended up leaving in a wheelchair. I then started doing physio and things like that and I got diagnosed with something called CMS FND, which is chemical multiple sclerosis, functional neurological disorder. Bit of a mouthful. It's a lot of acronyms. Yeah. And so pretty much CMS FND is when your body decides to just not function the way it should. So I get shaky, I lose sensation in my hands, my feet, sometimes my whole body. And that can lead me to not being able to walk, not being able to talk. It's not an ideal situation. I also have a brain aneurysm which I was also diagnosed with around that time. And yeah, it's been crazy. I've had lots of strokes. I've had a spinal stroke. It's been a crazy couple of years

15:18 As a close friend it's been really hard to watch that as well. And I can't stop these things from happening. I just, I can support you and love you, but it's a hard thing to watch loved ones suffer. And before this, going back many years, you were a competitive water skier, so it's not something that you're used to, this suffering with your body, and your body not being able to function the way that you're used to it functioning. What are the main ways that you've noticed your life has changed because of this, your professional life, your social life, even your faith. How has that developed throughout this time of when you had that first stroke? A couple of years ago?

15:52 It's been a very rocky sort of situation. Lots of ups, lots of downs. But my faith has actually helped me so much during this time. There were times where physically I was unable to do things and then there would also times where mentally I just couldn't get my head around different situations and what was happening to me. And so during both of those times, prayer was massive. Going to Mass was massive and I needed that because without that, I think I probably would've lost my sanity. It was just something that really helped me through every single hard time that I've faced over the last couple of years. I see other people living out their faith and I want to be like that and say that's really helped me because other people have been living by example and also the night that I had my first stroke back in January, 2017. I wrote, only three hours earlier, God will only put you through what you can handle. And so that's really like hung around with me for a really long time because I know that no matter what's happening, God's got a plan for me. And this is my journey, this is my plan.

17:00 That's a really beautiful thought. That God only gives you as much as you can handle, and you've had to handle quite a bit over the past two years that I've seen. And I know that you're very strong, you don't show us everything that you're going through. So has there been times where you know you've wanted to chuck the towel in? You've been like 'this is too hard. God's given me too much, I can't handle this'. Have there ever been times like that? And what have you done to get through that?

17:25 Yes. So there's certainly been times when I thought that I wouldn't be able to handle things. And what immediately comes to mind is the first probably three or four months after my first stroke, 'Cause you were there when I had my first stroke, and I would call you. And for some reason it was always a Thursday day and I would just sit and I would just cry and you would just listen. And to me that actually helped me a lot because, you know, I felt like, okay, I'm not in this alone. I'm not by myself in this, but faith wise, okay, it has, it's fluctuated. But at the end of the day, I know what I believe and God is always going to be present in my life. And even when sometimes it's really, really hard to say that and picture that. I know that deep down in my heart. So yeah.

18:15 That's a really beautiful truth. That you know that no matter what happens in your life, you know that truth will stand, that God does love you. He's never going to leave you but at different seasons of your life it's going to look different. This suffering we keep mentioning yourself and myself that it was two years ago, this stroke, but it's not something that's done. You're not 'better' I guess in the physical sense.

18:38 Your body still, struggles, struggles a lot. And every day it's a battle for you. So I guess looking forward, do you know there's still doctors appointments that you have to go to and physio and rehabilitation and things like that and they're never fun appointments. I don't know many people that would jump out of bed going, 'yes, I get to go to rehab today! This is the best day of the week'. So how, looking forward especially, how are you strong enough to keep going to those appointments? In the suffering, in the pain?

19:06 Yeah. So there's definitely days where I'm just like, I don't want to get out of bed, but I know that I, I have to, because if I don't, there's a possibility that like I'm not going to be able to walk. I'm not going to be able to function and do everyday things. And I know that during this it's like it's going to be a hard journey and it's an ongoing journey. I'm going to have this for the rest of my life by I know that if I work towards these small goals and if every day I do one little thing, then I know that everything will be okay because God is there by my side.

19:45 That's really sweet. That idea of just doing little things like knowing that God, as you mentioned before, God only gives you as much as you can handle. And he's not asking him to go do giant things, not asking you go walk across the world or up a mountain. He was just there with you consistently just to get through every day, which every day's a different challenge for you and that's really beautiful. That's something that shines through your life Em is that hope and that faith, that truth that God is with you. And I know that I spoken to a lot of our friends and talk about you sometimes and we talk about just the impact that watching you and just journey with you through this has had on our own lives. I can speak for myself here that watching you is just this incredible model of determination. You're a very strong young woman and if I had to go through half of what you've had to go through in the last two years, especially, I don't know how I could be as strong as you, but also the number of people that you've impacted. So you're very active in youth ministry, you're there at every retreat and rally and parish, you know, youth group and you are a beacon of light in the community. And I think, that's something that's really beautiful that you can share this with others and you know, you don't hold back. You don't try to hide it. You're very open with everyone and then people can see God in your suffering, I guess. Is that something that you're aware of, that you are such a witness to the community?

21:10 No, I'm not aware of that. And thank you so much. You're literally about to make me cry. I've always found that when you smile, the world smiles with you. And so even if I'm suffering, I don't want people to be like, oh, she's sad all the time and things like that. Like I want to be a happy person. I want to be known as somebody who is happy and say thank you so much for saying that. You know, that that is what I'm portraying because ultimately that that's what I want to come across it.

21:46 Yeah, that's really beautiful and that joy that you want to share that joy even in your suffering and even in your pain. Em thank you so much for sharing all of this with us today. It's really beautiful to have you come and chat and talk in such a real way about what you're going through, what you've gone through. And I guess, you know, this is going to continue. So the FRG team will keep you in our prayers and our listeners too, that they will continue to pray for you in this suffering. And also for your future. So thank you very much Em.

22:13 Thank you.

22:16 Thank you so much for joining us today on the Catholic Influencer's Podcast. We'd love to hear from you. So please get in touch FRGministry.com/podcast or any of our social media. So Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, @FRGministry, and we'll be back next week. Until then, God bless.

Danielle Sullivan