We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is a great mystery. However, because of Jesus, this quote from the bible tells us suffering can be used well. At the cross our suffering is refined, offered to God and used to redeem humanity.
When suffering is ours to bear, we must trust in God’s plan and hope in his promise. A crucifix helps us be more aware of this. The crucifix meets all evil with good, all hate with love, and all negatives with positives. Our dark suffering is placed in the light of Christ and becomes redemptive. God works in suffering, and teaches us through suffering. When united with Jesus, suffering is not just ours. We are not alone as we place ourselves, and that which causes us to suffer, at the foot of the cross. Unforeseen graces evolve from suffering. It is true that suffering tests our trust in God, but it also helps us to see life as it is, not as we would like it to be. The crucifix keeps us steadfast as we persevere. If we must ask someone to do what we can no longer do for ourselves, uniting what we cannot do with Jesus on the cross gives spiritual help to others in ways we cannot imagine. We grow as human beings and as Christians when we bear suffering with courage and acceptance. If we are constantly tempted to try to avoid all suffering, we betray ourselves and stunt our spiritual growth. When we embrace the cross, we grow in self discipline, self control, self giving. Most of all, we grow in how to love as Jesus taught us.
An anonymous writer helps us along, “Little headaches, little heartaches, little griefs of every day. Little trials and vexations how they throng upon our way. One great cross immense and heavy, so it seems to our weak will. Might be borne with resignation, but these many little ones kill. Yet all life is formed of small things, little leaves make up the trees. Many tiny drops of water, blending make the mighty seas. Let us then not by impatience, mar the beauty of the whole. But for the love of Jesus, bear all in the silence of our soul. Asking him for grace sufficient to sustain us through each loss. And to treasure each small suffering as a splinter from his cross.”
Seeing our splinters as teachers helps us to be authentic with others and ourselves. The more love we have for Jesus, the more truthful we will be. Centering our lives on Christ direct us to a higher vision and a more noble way of life that benefits all humanity. Jesus matters, and we are our ‘best’ selves when we live as if Jesus were by our side. If we strive toward this, we uproot the things in our hearts that turn us away from his love. We know that the highest joy is not found in doing things our way. It is found in being faithful to Jesus’ way.
Father William Bausch tells us the following story: Henry Francis Lyte was a minister, and had gone to a little fishing village, and because he was really a good man and got to know the people and got a bible on every boat, and that sort of thing. His parish increased and people were all over the place. But early on, as a young man in his early fifties, he got very sick and the doctor told him he’d have to leave the place for a more benign climate. So he sat in his little garden overlooking the sea, thinking of the most recent few years, which hadn’t been that good. Because of his sickness he hadn’t been able to be present, and as a result some of the people had left the parish and had gone to other churches, and even those who remained were fighting among themselves. And yet, even in spite of that, he thought of all the good things and measured them out. Then he wrote a song, a hymn, and it is probably one of the most consistent hymns in Protestant hymnals and Catholic missalettes that we have:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. When other helpers fail and comforts flee. Help of the helpless, O abide with me. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me. Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word, But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord, Familiar, condescending, patient, free. Come not to sojourn, but abide with me. Come not in terror, as the King of kings, But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings; Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea. Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me. Thou on my head in early youth didst smile, And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile, Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee. On to the close, O Lord, abide with me. I need Thy presence every passing hour. What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power? Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless; Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness. Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if Thou abide with me. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.