My oldest daughter was in a car accident.
A minor one, I assure you, but still it was a cross thrown across our family's path.
I looked at the cross. There were no bloody markings, no death, no bruisings. There was only an indention on the back passenger door with some red paint smeared across it. My daughter and the other girl were fine. They both had insurance. And, counting my blessings down to the last measure, it wasn't my daughter's fault.
I asked her if she needed me to come home. She told me to go on to the Spring Picnic at the park. She was already headed home and would stop at the insurance company to turn in the other driver's information and by the dealership to get an estimate on the repairs to her car. After assuring me several times she was okay and after I had assured her that the insurance company would take care of everything, I hung up and allowed my thoughts and concerns to shatter into a thousand twinkling little slivers of broken glass.
I sighed with relief that this cross was so tiny and continued on with my day.
Then, after our St. Joseph Altar presentation, my youngest daughter began feeling sick. Thinking it had been too long of a day for her, combined with spinning in circles as little girls love to do, eating too much cantaloupe and Easter candy, we didn't leave right away. I ended up rushing her to the bathroom facilities three times. Her tummy hurt and ached and she was almost doubled over but nothing would come up. She sat on my lap, uncomfortably twisting and turning. I decided to take down the altar and head home. After another bathroom visit, her tummy began to feel a bit better. I got her home, gave her a bath and a hair washing. She rested comfortably in the recliner.
Another minor cross, but one that had to be carried and accepted until Christ lifted it off our shoulders.
Suffering is never pleasant. Never.
But suffering is also unavoidable. Suffering will exist.
Yet, without meaning or reason, it is even worse. In fact, it can be unbearable.
Even the beautiful little flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, said during her suffering from tuberculosis that it is unwise for caretakers to leave medicine bottles on the table near the sickbed. The temptation for a suffering soul to take the medicine to extreme in order to vanquish the pain and, thus, relieve themselves of their earthly suffering is too great a risk. For a saint to admit this helps us to realize that it is not sinful to be human and weak; it is sinful to not trust in a greater good.
By trusting in a greater good, we follow the example of Christ. It might not make the suffering more bearable but it makes it more productive and, certainly, more redemptive.
Follow the example of Christ and He will be with you every step of the way.
God knows you are weak. He walked in your body. He talked and ate and lived on this earth for over thirty years. He even said, "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." ~ Mark 14:38 So he knows...He truly knows.
But, despite this weakness, Christ asked us to rise up, take up our cross, and follow Him. And the cross is as heavy. We do not have the nail marks in our hands because Christ took the hammering and nails for us, but the cross is awfully heavy. But it is there. Before us. For the next three days the cross is blatantly and painfully before us.
We might be fighting the flu, cancer, a toothache, depression, injuries, bankruptcy, job loss, divorce, death, any multitude of sufferings.
Do we reach out and embrace the cross Christ is offering us? Or do we look at it and quake in fear and uncertainty? Do we take it upon our shoulders and say, "If my suffering will help another's suffering then I will do this. I don't like it and I don't necessarily want it, but I will do this. With Christ's help I will do this."
The suffering is there. What will you do with it? How will you handle these crosses in life?
Ask for God's mercy. Ask for His graces. Ask for His blessings. And go forward in faith.
It's okay to ask God to take away our suffering and our pain. Didn't He tell us: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." ~ Matthew 7:7-8
It's completely okay! It's alright to beg and plead if you have to.
Didn't Christ, on His knees with droplets of blood and sweat dripping off His flawless brow plead to His Father in Heaven: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will." ~ Mark: 14:36
See! The Son of God begged God the Father to "Take this cup away from me..." He was God, but He was also Man. He knew it had to be done but His human self was reeling from the prospect of such a horrible death. Still, he resigned himself to his Father's holy will and asked for strength in accepting it. That is what we must do. The suffering is before us. What will we do with it?
Things that make suffering bearable are:
- knowing it is good, right and holy to walk in the footsteps of our Lord,
- the reality that we are the Body of Christ and we can participate more fully with Him in His agony,
- the understanding that, as the Body of Christ, our suffering can be of redemptive worth to other Christians,
- knowing that we are obeying Christ,
- knowing we are following Christ.
Christ has asked us to follow him.
Christ has told us to pick up our cross.
Christ has told us this cross will not be easy.
Catholics take Christ's Walk to Calvary very seriously because without the cross there would be no Resurrection. We rejoice in the Ressurection because we know the price of that day, and that day is priceless. Being sick in bed with the flu makes us more thankful than ever to have good health. Walking with Christ in the desert and on the road to Calvary makes us that much more appreciative and aware of the open, empty tomb and the glorified body of Christ. We should never forget the price that Christ paid and, if He asks us to take up our cross and be a part of the Body of Christ, we should do it willingly and in faith.
Not that we shouldn't ask for relief and seek medical help and take care of these bodies which are indeed temples of the Holy Spirit, but we live in a sinful world and we know we will suffer. Knowing that suffering can be redemptive can be as gut-wrenching a revelation as the cross was when it slid into the hole and jarred the body of Christ. We cannot escape the suffering, even though we have faith in the promise and reality of the Resurrection.
But we can suffer like Christ did, in our own small ways. Our sufferings, compared to Christ's, might be very small and insignificant. It might look like only a drop in that great ocean of souls whose sufferings wash the wounds of Christ. But each drop makes the ocean. The suffering is not easy but giving suffering a purpose and a name is so simple and so worthy and so holy.
Do we merely lie there suffering without a clue as to what we're suffering for? Or do we lie there and simply say, "Christ, I offer my suffering up for the conversion of sinners."
We simply and lovingly offer it up for the salvation of all mankind and, in doing so, we suffer for something bigger and nobler than ourselves