- I lost my ability to speak on a number of occasions. Noone could understand me.
- I have gone incontinent and dirtied myself;
- I have lost the use of my right arm and hand, so I could barely hold a pencil.
- I'd lose sensation;
- I'd go spastic (I still do);
- I'd have crippling fatigue (I still do).
I found a wonderful surprise: Through my Redeemer’s outstretched arms on the cross. He invited me -- and invites me still -- to unite my suffering with his suffering. Imagine that! Being invited into Christ’s redemptive suffering. He suffered in my place and here I was invited into His redemptive act. In this way, my pain began to take on meaning. Christ calls me to relinquish ownership of my pain to Him, and understand that I was truly poor in spirit.
If I carry my cross of suffering in union with Christ’s redemptive suffering it does not lead to a Golgotha: It led to a realization that Christ can use my human suffering to bring me closer to Him. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Roman 8.18.) His comment about the “glory that will be revealed in us” is a reference to the future resurrection of the body (v. 23) and the subsequent complete Christ-likeness which is every believer’s eternal glory.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
“Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen."
Christ’s truth can (and does) set people free, even today. He said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
To the end, he showed by his example, that Christ is always near, especially in what may seem like hopeless circumstances. The chronically ill and disabled people of the world took notice. I know I sure did. The Pontiff proclaimed through his faithful witness, Christ’s solidarity with the world’s disabled. His final witness was for a culture of life and inclusion – and that blessed witness continued to the last hours of his life. His unstated message that Christ stands in union with the world’s disabled, the chronically and terminally ill was (and is) of profound importance to us. In his last journey, Pope John Paul illustrated with poignant clarity that no matter how desperate life’s circumstances may become, no matter how close we may be to death’s door, Christ is there.
It has been in my suffering I have received a glimpse of the Truth and it is setting me free. Not even this wheelchair can take that freedom from me. Christ’s light is driving back my darkness. I live in His light and liberty. God gave me the answer to human suffering in the Cross of Jesus Christ. I can sit at his feet that still bear the scars of his pain. My lesser sufferings have been absorbed.
 John Scott, “FEAR AND FALSE PROMISES: The Challenge of Pain in the Terminally Ill” in EUTHANASIA AND ASSISTED SUICIDE: The Current Debate, Ed. Ian Gentles (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co., 1995) p. 96.