I’ve always been told that suffering means that God is calling you to be near to Him, but very often my response mirrors that of St. Teresa of Avila when she said: “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.”
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. And now, being newlywed, that desire is so close to being fulfilled but also just out of reach. It was only after we were married, that my husband and I really looked at the student debt that had piled up over the course of our studies. We learned during marriage prep that Natural Family Planning is meant to be “used with regret”, and I’ve never understood that phrase more fully than I do now. We are doing all that we can to aggressively pay off our debt, but we have had to make the difficult decision to postpone having children for our first year. We know that waiting a little longer for children is the right decision for our [future] family but I am struggling to be patient and suffer lovingly.
Recently, I have found myself praying with Christ’s words during this first Sorrowful Mystery “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me...” I keep hoping that I am mistaken, that I am misunderstanding the cross He has asked me to pick up. Or if I am correct in my understanding, I want Him to change His mind and take back the suffering He has asked me to endure.
Remembering His words, I recently said to a friend: “Even Jesus didn’t want to suffer.”
But I also had to ask, then why did He?
Why did He suffer in the Garden? He is God right? Couldn’t He just skip the agony, and jump right into His triumph over death?
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, who wrote the Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ based on her visions of Christ’s passion and death, writes this about the Agony:
“Jesus, in delivering himself up to Divine Justice in satisfaction for the sins of the world, caused his divinity to return, in some sort, into the bosom of the Holy Trinity, concentrated himself, so to speak, in his pure, loving and innocent humanity...now that his love had ordained that he should be left to all the weakness of His human nature he trembled at the prospect of death”
Jesus, during his Agony in the Garden, didn’t just suffer as a father who aches for his children, He suffered as one of His children. Christ allowed Himself to fully experience the suffering of humanity. In this, not only does God Himself show us that He understands our suffering, He actually suffers with us.
God doesn’t force us to suffer; He knows, first hand, that suffering is a package deal with our fallen nature. But He raised up our entire human nature by becoming one.
Because of His love for us and through His suffering, He unites Himself to each one of us in our own anguish. Through His agony, He has raised us up in our suffering, and made suffering redemptive. We need only allow Him to do this in our lives by praying in all things “not my will but yours be done.”
Reflect: How is/was God reaching out to me in moments suffering? How might He have been suffering with me?
Reflect: What does “redemptive suffering” mean? How can I suffer redemptively?
Act: Offer a sacrifice to God for someone in your life today. Perhaps you can give up your favorite food, time on Facebook or Netflix, or listening to the radio in the car, for your best friend, your sibling, or significant other. Or you might try giving of your time by volunteering with the less fortunate or praying a Rosary for someone who needs prayers.