*Your suffering is not a waste of time. Unite it to Jesus’ suffering on the cross, and reciprocate His love! I wrote this when I was down with a knock-out virus. But I dedicate this revision to all those who are suffering any kind of illness or cross, and especially the elderly as they suffer the pains of failing health. This reflection was read at the bedside of my dying Grandfather, and is dear to my heart.
I had our vacation week planned to the minute.
My husband is home from work, the kids are home from school, and we were GOING to have some quality family time.
We would cover the kitchen table with snippets of paper and gobs of glue while we craft our hearts out.
We would devour dozens of gooey, warm, fresh-baked cookies.
We would cuddle up warn on the couch, wrapped in one big family sized blanket with a pile of books to read aloud.
All the hallmark-worthy sentiments.
All the Kodak-moments.
And then I got sick.
Jesus, I cry out to You.
Here I am, lying helpless in this bed. Almost, I’m tempted to say this sickness blew it for me. This time spent lying here has been a waste.
But not quite.
Fr. Tito always says to the sick and suffering, “He wasn’t wasting time on the cross, and we’re not wasting time here.” Your death, Jesus, is the ultimate example of redemptive suffering.
He wasn’t wasting time on the cross, and we’re not wasting time here. Share on Twitter
Life is not all about putting together the picture-perfect week.
It’s not the Kodak-moments that make it worthwhile.
Life is about doing the Will of God – which, as You showed, can involve a great deal of suffering.
No One Wants To Suffer
Not that anyone wants to suffer.
Even You, my Jesus, begged for a way out on that dark night in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matt 26.39 You sweat blood in anxiety and anticipation of your suffering.
Sometimes we Christians seem so masochistic – “Suffering! suffering!” – like it’s some great prize. But let’s face it, You didn’t want suffering.
You didn’t ask for it. And neither do we.
I didn’t ask You to strike me down with infirmity.
Our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world don’t ask to be imprisoned and tortured.
People don’t ask loved ones to abandon them.
Nobody asks to die slowly of cancer.
We may hear that odd story of a Saint who chose to wear a hair shirt. But I can’t even stand the stray seam in my sock. No, Your Passion and death do not show us that we should walk around begging for suffering, looking for trouble.
Digging Out The Slivers
But it does teach us how to accept suffering:
“Not my will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42
We don’t see the big picture. My kids don’t know that the pain is only temporary while I pull the sliver out of their feet. But they’ll be better when the job is done.
I have no idea why it’s better for me to spend my days lying here, feeling tired and helpless and so unproductive. You even asked the Father for another way out. But still You trusted in His plan.
And You want me to trust Him too. Just like I want my kids to trust me and sit still while I dig that sliver out.
Because that’s what You were doing on the cross.
You were digging out all my slivers.
All my sins and failings – a certain amount of pain is inevitable to root them out of my soul. In Your death You endured all that pain for me. You removed all my sins, once and for all.
(Though it’s crazy for me to think of how You did that before I even committed them, but You’re not confined to this time-space continuum like I am).
But wait a minute, if You suffered then, once and for all, to save me from my sins, why am I suffering now? And how does it do anyone any good?
St. Paul says, “We make up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.” (paraphrase) Col 1:24
In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Col 1:24 Share on Twitter
That always seems a bit radical to me. Your sacrifice is the perfect Sacrifice – total gift of self, complete redemption, freely offered, no hidden conditions in the fine print.
What could be lacking?
When a Mother spends all her tears and energy raising her son and he disregards all her teachings and her love, what is lacking?
When a Husband showers his wife with all his love and devotion and she walks away without looking back, what is lacking?
What more could You, or the Mother, or the Husband, could have done and did not do?
What’s lacking has nothing to do with any deficit on Your part, on her part, on his part.
What’s lacking is whole-hearted reception, reciprocated love.
Relationships are difficult.
They take work.
It’s not up to one person to make all the sacrifices and the other person to get off free and clear.
Do I really love You best if I expect You to do all the hard work while I sit back and relax? No, my Jesus, I love You best when I put in my fair share of the hard work, when I stick by You in the suffering and the hard times and shoulder my share of the burden.
I can’t sit back and say – “Hey, Jesus did all the suffering, I’m good to go, pass the Oreos, please, and pick me up a coffee.”
Anyway, Jesus, what was I saying?
Oh yeah, suffering is my opportunity to say, “Yes, I love You too.” I recognize and am thankful for the great sacrifice You made for me when You gave Your life on the cross.
I Say Yes
You weren’t wasting time on the cross.
You were loving me.
You were healing me.
You were 100% committed to restoring our wounded relationship, You did everything it took to make sure I was guaranteed a spot in Heaven.
And I’m not wasting time here either.
This sickbed is my opportunity to love You back, to unite myself to You, to say, “Yes, I am committed to this relationship too.” A little pain doesn’t scare me.
It’s all worth it in the end, because I know there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.
There’s a Resurrection at the end of the Crucifixion.
There’s a Heavenly life at the end of this earthly one.
And You want to take me there, if only I say Yes to the gift You want to give me.
I say, “Yes,” my Jesus.
Take my suffering. Unite it to Yours. Draw me closer to You than ever before. And all my brothers and sisters in this world who are suffering in any way, help them know You through their sufferings, too.
Because we’re not wasting time.
We’re learning to love like You did.
And we’re returning Your love.
There’s a Resurrection at the end of the Crucifixion. Share on Twitter
Share your answers in a comment below, or write them in your prayer journal:
- What cross are you suffering at the moment?
- How can you unite your suffering to Jesus’ suffering on the Cross?
- How can you receive and return the total gift of self that Jesus gave you on the Cross?
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