Sujatha Joseph takes us on a step-by-step approach to embrace our crosses more dearly with much love.
It was one of those beautiful, relaxing weekends when my two-year-old son and I decided to go for an evening walk to enjoy nature and each other’s company. Nature had its full colour on with trees wearing hues of yellow, green, red and brown leaves and some, adorning colourful flowers. A few of these beautiful leaves and flowers had begun to leave the mother tree as in season, some were thinking about leaving and the others seemed hesitant to leave.
We both walked on the sidewalk taking in all this beauty around us with my son talking in his baby language and me responding as if I understood everything he said looking at the fallen leaves and flowers. I held onto his hand as we walked because I was scared he would fall and get hurt if I let go, although he could walk by himself. But, suddenly he decided to let go, to explore things by himself and ran ahead of me. He hadn’t gone too far before I heard his voice, shrieking, “Amma”. My poor little guy had slipped on something and had fallen down. I was hoping he would get up as I rushed towards him, but to my surprise, he kept lying there crying, “Amma”. After reaching, I gently lifted him up, but his cry became louder and he started pointing towards the small scrape on his knees talking in his language. Even though his language was not clear I could understand that he was saying, “Mom, it hurts”. I hugged him and he rested his head on my shoulder; his loud cry becoming weaker, reducing to soft weeping and then finally silence. All the while I kept whispering in his ears “It is going to be ok my son, I am here for you, do not worry, I know what to do”. I guess he understood because he rested quietly on my shoulder and then fell asleep as if nothing had happened or will happen.
Our sufferings are like this. They are opportunities for us to return to the Lord our father with complete trust and dependence like a child, a child who cries when he falls or hurts, a child who wants his dad to pick him up and hold him close to his heart so that he can rest.
We, as children of God should see suffering as a battle – a battle for winning our souls. It is not easy to go through suffering peacefully, especially when someone is going through something heart breaking like death of loved ones, untreatable illnesses, divorce, marriage issues and so on. Often times we seek for help and comfort, hoping that our crosses may be removed, or made lighter, but God has a plan and purpose for all our sufferings no matter how big or small it is.
Having said that, not all our problems should be given the name “suffering allowed by God”. There are times when we buy our own problems. Regardless, if we offer up our problems or sufferings to the Lord he can use it for a greater purpose.
Few steps that might help us to respond to our sufferings in a Godly manner are:
LOOK AT HIM
Like a child we should look up to our Lord at the time of our sufferings. Often times we look up to God at the time of suffering as a person who can remove the cross from us. Yes, of course he is capable of doing so and we must look up to him for that as well. But, is that all he is capable of doing or is that all we should aim for? The conviction that “God is my father and his purpose in my suffering, is to earn my soul” will help us to seek God’s purpose in our suffering. Looking at HIM will draw us more close to him and we will be able to see HIS wounds and rest in his wounds. He will embrace us with his wounded hands and broken heart so that we may be able to unite our wounds to HIS wounds.
SPEAK TO HIM
Suffering often brings sadness, depression, anxiety, fear of future and so on. If we fall into any of these, we are opening our heart to Satan to work his way in to destroy our souls. Word of God says, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14: 22). Whatever our feelings, we must be able to talk to the Lord as we talk to our best friend or like a child who brings his or her sorrows to his or her mom or dad. God is a loving father who is willing to listen to our cries and sorrowful mourning.
LISTEN TO HIM
After pouring out our hearts to HIM we must listen to HIM. Our sufferings may be something that we may have bought with our own actions, or it may be something that HE has allowed in our lives, like in Job’s case. Either way he has something to tell us through the suffering. Listen to him! This can be done during personal prayer, adoration, holy mass, word of God, or through mature spiritual guidance.
Sometimes our heartbroken and loudest cry may seem unheard. If we feel that way, we must realize that our Lord is also mourning with us in our sorrows, like he did with crying Martha and Mary, hoping for a moment that we quiet down and rest at HIS feet so that he can talk and reveal HIS greater plan for us. Do not forget that the most heart-breaking cry that rose in Gethsemane was left with no response at the time, because it was inevitable to fulfill the greater purpose. If we think our cries are not heard as we expected, let us say to him “Let thy will be done” and rest in HIS wounds whispering “Father, in to your hands I commit my spirit”. Our destiny is the ‘new Jerusalem, where all tears will be wiped away, no more death, no sorrows or crying’ (Revelation 21: 4).
RESPOND TO HIM
After pouring our hearts in front of the Lord and listening to him we must respond. Respond with patience and love. Prayer, fasting, word of God, prayerful fellowships, sacraments especially holy mass and confession are great sources that will give us strength and endurance to bear our crosses without much grumbling. If we “offer” our sufferings to the Lord we will become part takers of HIS suffering and death, bearing great witness to the people around us. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4: 8–9).
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