Jesus does all things in love. This is something I have really begun to understand and embrace. I feel His love in my triumphs, in the gifts I am given, and in the people He has generously placed in my life. But what about the opposite? What about in suffering?
With Jesus in Our Trials
If God loves us so, how can He allow us to suffer? I know I have experienced times of trial in my life: when I had a kidney stone, when I was stressed out during my exams in college or with all the paperwork that needs to be done for work, or when my grandpa passed away. I didn’t feel His love. I just felt hurt, pain, and abandoned.
Even if we don’t feel it, He loves us just as much when we suffer as when we are joyful. Saint Francis de Sales said that while, “your sufferings have been steadily mounting, our Lord is allowing you to participate in His holy cross and is crowning you with His crown of thorns.”
How to Endure in Love
God isn’t just allowing us to suffer alone. He gently allows our crosses and stays by our side every staggering step we take as we endure them. But how can we feel His gentle love amidst a seemingly dark, never-ending path of pain?
Remember and Reflect
Take a deep breath and know that you truly are not alone in these moments. Christ Himself even had low moments. He endured the greatest suffering and in the midst of it, His best friends denied that they knew Him! It may have seemed that He was alone, but His Father, our Father, walked by His side every step of the way. He walks with us, though we cannot physically see Him. In these moments when I feel like it’s just me on my own isolated island of suffering, I love to reflect on the “Footprints” poem by Margaret Fishback Powers:
One night I dreamed a dream
I was walking along the beach with my Lord
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord
When the last scene of my life shot before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand
There was only one set of footprints
I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life
This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma
“Lord, You told me when I decided to follow You,
You would walk and talk with me all the way
But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life,
There is only one set of footprints
I don’t understand why, when I need You most You leave me”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
During your trials and testings, when you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you
We don’t need to feel the weight of our suffering, for it is in love that He picks us up and carries us along the dark paths in life.
Look to the Saints
We are not alone in suffering. Look to the many saints of the Church who now rejoice in the paradise of Heaven because of their joyful suffering in this world. Saint Helen’s husband divorced her after 22 years of marriage, Saint Monica endured her son Augustine’s sinfulness and rudeness toward her for many years, Saint Rita was in an abusive relationship, Saint Teresa of Calcutta lived in spiritual desolation, Saint Teresa of Avila was afflicted with constant migraines, and our Mother of God lost her only Son. These women may have suffered from different crosses, but they all looked to the same Savior hanging on the Cross for strength, courage, and love. Whatever you may be enduring in your life, research the patron saint of your trial, and pray for them to lead you to Jesus on the Cross. They can help you give Him glory through your pain.
Meet Jesus at the Cross
Finally, to love God in and through our suffering, we need to meet Him at the cross. Take a moment during your day, whether it’s between classes, at lunch, when a child is down for a nap, or whenever you happen to find that spare moment of being alone, and go to meet Jesus. If possible, go to Him in the tabernacle, or find a quiet place with no distractions. Talk to Him, tell Him how you feel, whether it be abandonment, anger, despair, or frustration. Don’t hold back! He wants to hear you. He yearns for you to come to Him as you are, brokenness and all. After pouring out your heart, just sit and let Him love you. Just be with Him. Know that He loves you, even in your suffering. Know that the same God who has sent you this suffering is also the one who heals it. Graciously ask Him to heal you. Let Him love you in the sorrow, pain, and agony.
Loving More Fiercely
We need to persevere through our sufferings. We need to love Him back even more during these times. Loving God through the bitterness of life is the victory of loving faithfully. We must try to graciously accept these trials from His outstretched hand. We must look to Jesus on the cross, the ultimate suffering in this world, and unite our suffering to His. We must love through the pain, through the feeling of abandonment, through the anger, through the wondering and wandering. We must endure for Christ as He endured for us.
A Prayer for a Time of Suffering by Saint Francis de Sales
O Lord Jesus, by your incomparable sadness and by the unparalleled desolation that seized your divine heart on the Mount of Olives and on the Cross, and by the desolation of your dear Mother when she lost you, be our joy, or at least our strength, now while your Cross and Passion are so closely joined to our hearts.
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What are some ways you endure in love for Jesus when times are tough?
Maggie Grevas is a FOCUS missionary currently serving at Valparaiso University with her loving husband and adorable baby girl. Originally from the mountains of Virginia, you can find her spending all her free time doing anything outdoors with a smile on her face and coffee in hand. You can learn more about her here.