Finding Grace in Pain

I wrote these thoughts specifically about my own experiences with chronic pain, but they may also resonate around issues of emotional and mental pain, such as working through trauma, bereavement, or depression.

I don’t believe for a moment that Brighid causes us to suffer. I certainly don’t believe She does so to teach us life lessons or to make us stronger people. Religions have been grappling with the concept of human suffering since the dawn of spiritual and ritual life. I believe wholeheartedly that Brighid (and other deities) suffer /with/ us. When we mourn, when we ache, when we face oppression and injustice, our gods walk by our sides. 

I don’t believe Brighid “gave me” a congenital back disorder – I have genetics to blame for that – nor do I believe She takes any pleasure in my pain or struggles to access medical care. I /do/ believe that in the midst of pain I can look to Brighid and see Her presence in my life. She is a goddess of healing, and so intimately knows the reality of infection, inflammation, muscle cramps, and damaged nerves. As St. Brigit She is said to have suffered terrible blinding migraines which left Her debilitated for days on end. As the wife of the Formorian king Bres and the mother of Ruadan, She knows intimately the wracking pain of war unending and the unspeakable depths of sorrow that can only be spoken when cradling one’s dead child on the battlefield.

Grace is drawing near to the font of divinity, feeling the presence of our gods despite – perhaps even because of – the slings and arrows of human life. Grace is our attempt to give speech to the unspeakable, the ineffable, the divine. When I have to plan my day around how many times I can reasonably navigate stairs without too much pain, I am in grace. When I experience so much depression and executive dysfunction that I cannot even leave the house, I am in grace. I may not always be able to feel it and may not always be on the lookout for it, but Brighid constantly surrounds me with Her love and grace. She is there sharing my pain and struggles until it becomes Our pain and Our struggles.

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