Saturday, August 6, 2011

Suffering and the Cross

Once, not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, an event like the one that is very likely to unfold in our lives, would have completely shattered my faith. In those days I thought about God frequently, prayed throughout the day, and dreamed of being a missionary in far off lands. But my view of God was skewed. Somewhere along the line I began to think of God as a Santa Claus like figure. If I were good, good things would happen.

I’m not sure where I got that idea. I think it was just a result of my over-achiever, perfectionist personality. And for quite some time it worked for me quite well.

But it was pretty much foredoomed to be disastrous in the long term. When something bad happened my faith went out the window in about two seconds flat and I found myself unanchored, seeking to latch on to something that made sense. For a while I considered myself agnostic. Then Buddhist. Then slowly I found myself coming back around to my beginnings. I found myself praying a prayer that, quite simply, asked for God to help me to believe. Six months later I met Paul and found myself inside a Catholic Church.

It was within the Church that I began to learn about the Catholic view of suffering. You see, suffering really isn’t all that necessary in every belief system. If you believe in a theological system of “once saved, always saved” it really isn’t a necessity. In Catholicism I found that suffering took a much more prominent position in life, which made sense to me, because it is very much a part of life.

Slowly, life began to make a bit more sense. Through suffering we are often drawn towards God, although we may certainly use our suffering to become bitter and estranged from Him as I once did… it’s all part of the whole free-will deal.

Scripturally suffering is pretty big. Jesus makes it pretty clear that we’re to take up our cross and follow Him. Pope Benedict XVI explained in 2009:
"The cross of Christ will be the demon’s ruin, and this is why Jesus does not cease to teach his disciples that in order to enter into his glory he must suffer much, be rejected, condemned and crucified. Suffering is an integral part of his mission."

"Jesus suffers and dies on the cross for love. When we consider this, we see that it is in this way that he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age understood and made their own, experiencing profound serenity even in the bitterness of difficult physical and moral trials."
This understanding does make every pain, from the physical to the emotional, a bit easier to bear. It makes each day easier, as I try to think in terms of hours, instead of days or weeks. Hour by hour we go. And in a way, as I wind through almost rambling prayers I find the same request coming through over and over again: “Please God, let this little one remain with us. Let this baby grow and be healthy and be baptized and be called to a vocation where he or she can love and serve You and grow to be a saint… but if it’s your will… than may this child be born into heaven with You. Not our will but yours be done…”

It is heartbreaking… but not soul crushing. For suffering is part of this life and as followers of Christ we understand that we will be asked to take up our crosses to follow him.

And so I pray that I can truly say: “Not my will but Yours be done.” They are not the easiest words to mean, I find, but at least I understand now why they are beautiful.


  1. I am lifting you up in prayer. I like how you said "It is heartbreaking...but not soul crushing". I felt that way when we lost our 4th child. The pain was there and it was real, but I was strong enough to handle it...and you will be too if you need to be! But don't loose faith that miracles happen everyday!

  2. I think the Catholic view of suffering is the most beautiful one in existence. No, it is not easy to bear but it is bearable. When I was protestant I believed as you did, that if I was good good things would happen. In Protestantism, bad things only happen when you are not in God's favor. To them, suffering is a burden of your sinfulness. It's so sad. I think that is why they end up getting involved in groups like a Course in Miracles and becoming suicidal. Without the purpose of suffering we become unanchored from God.

  3. (((hugs))) I, too, have been through this.... the pain is real, and so many do not understand how we can grieve for such a small one we never "met". But, as soon as we know we are pregnant, that little one is a SOMEONE. I pray all turns out well, but if not you have so many of us praying for you!


  4. Cam, my thoughts are with you.

    - Gail


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