As we contemplate the Stations of the Cross, we contemplate Jesus’s suffering. We can liken that to our own suffering, times we have been ridiculed or endured pain. Lent often tasks us to contemplate our mortality, and as Christians we are asked to suffer. This isn’t to suffer in pointless agony, but to suffer with grace! When we suffer with grace, we are sacrificing our own comforts for something greater, for the gospel, for our neighbors, and above all things for God.
A Mother’s Love
Imagine a mother who feeds her kids, clothes her kids, takes care of their needs, and cleans up after her children. At the end of the day, when her children are tucked in bed and fast asleep, she’s able to collapse and remove the mask of her happiness and reveal the suffering she’s endured throughout the day. But she does all these things with love for her children and with the intent of helping them to grow in safety with all they need.
One thing we should not do is suffer needlessly. Intent counts. Christ’s Love was given with the intent of opening the gates of heaven, tearing the veil. As Lent asks us to suffer in ways that we let go of our comforts and let go of the material world, Lent does not ask us to despair. Quite the opposite, Lent asks us to be filled with hope (James 1:2-4). That hope is realized on Easter Sunday when we once again proclaim with joy that the Lord is risen.
Jesus did not trudge on the Calvary cursing out the world. He did not endure pain in despair, but went willingly as the Father commanded, knowing the outcome was for good. His moments of agony from the garden to the last breath were with you and me in mind.
Two Kinds of Suffering
There are two kinds of suffering. In one way, we suffer silently for the good of others and for the glory of God. This suffering honors the Lord and renews our soul as we turn away from sin and self-satisfaction and serve others and God.
The other kind of suffering is damaging to our souls, to our minds, and our bodies. The other kind of suffering is suffering silently and in despair.
We are not asked to suffer in despair. That is the opposite of Christianity. Christianity is about hope, new life, and salvation. Suffering with despair is a message of the enemy. He tells us we’re not good enough. He tells us we won’t make it. The enemy wants us to believe we’re not loved. Nothing is further from the truth. Christ’s love for us is beyond measure.
If that mother that we imagined earlier were to suffer in despair, she would do her children no good. Her joy would be false when she is with them, and in her work she would toil in vain. She would be drowning in her sorrow with no light to lift her up. Even the smiles on the faces of her children would not be enough to lighten her heart. Soon, she would give up caring for them, seeing no point in her efforts. What good would it do for her children for them to wake up and she was no longer there?
Jesus did have a moment in which He seemed desperate. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46) We know the Father never abandoned His Son, but even Jesus endures this moment of loneliness and abandonment. Yet, He does not truly despair, for ultimately He commends His Spirit to the Father. It’s at that point the veil is torn and Salvation comes to fruition.
How to Endure
When we are asked by Christ to endure suffering, we are asked to do so selflessly. We are asked to suffer with grace, hope, and joy. We are not asked to brag about it or to show that we are enduring discomfort or pain but to contemplate our own sin and mortality. In this, we must turn away from sin in order that we can align ourselves more closely with the will of God and the love of Christ.
We may have moments of pain, torment, and even feel hopeless. If we join our suffering with the suffering of Christ (Phil 1:29), Who truly had the world against Him, we find solidarity with the One who saves us. There is no suffering we could possibly endure, no matter how terrible it may be, that Christ cannot join with us and bear us through. So, we are asked to give our suffering to Him and let Him bear it on the Cross.
The only time that we should speak up about our suffering is when our suffering is done in despair with depression and anxiety. It does no good to our souls or those around us if we suffer in this manner. It does not speak to the message of hope of the gospel. That is the entire point of the season of Lent and the faith of Christianity as a whole.
This world is filled with loss, despair, sadness, and many mental health ailments. No one should suffer in despair and without hope. If this is you or someone you love, please reach out. A parish priest, a close relative or friend, or a licensed professional should know about it. Each person has a purpose (Rom 8:28) and that purpose is known to God Who loves each of us dearly, so dearly He died on a Cross for our salvation.
Let us ask the Lord that this Lent could guide us and teach us to suffer with grace, to be filled with the hope of the gospel, and to endure selflessly for the Love of others and especially for the Love of Christ. Remember that Lent is followed by the joy of Easter, and so our suffering is followed by the joy of our own resurrections (1 Pt 5:10).
There are two kinds of suffering: despair and grace. Let us choose grace.
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