Updated: Mar 24, 2018
I don’t do well with pain and suffering, especially when it’s about the losses of those who I love dearly. Typically, I tend to go out my way to try to ‘rescue’ them from being hurt, but really, it’s ultimately about me trying to avoid my own suffering caused by watching others suffer. I know it sounds complicated, but that’s what it is.
However, the life of Jesus brings me back to the invitation to stay with suffering (whether it’s my own or others) again and again, and find Jesus with me in the midst of it. I read about the call to welcome suffering for the sake of a greater gift (namely, sharing in the life of Jesus) repeatedly in the Scripture. Just a few examples are:
I have been crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20)
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things. (Philippians 3:8)
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke (9:23)
“…unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
Learning to Grieve My Losses
Wise followers of Jesus remind us that in all of life, and all of its seasons, there are both gifts and losses. Sometimes one just overshadows the other and we can fail to notice the presence of both. I am trying to learn to name and give thanks for the gifts, as well as notice and grieve the losses in all seasons. The latter still requires a lot of practice on my part. Rather than just brushing away my hurts and disappointments with a dismissive remark, “but in the light of all the suffering in the world, it’s nothing note worthy really”, I am trying to pay attention to this neglected piece of my soul-life.
As I am learning to bring these (sometimes small but still valid) broken pieces of myself to Jesus, I am beginning to travel lighter with a ‘clearer’ heart and am not carrying the hurts and losses of yesterday with me as often anymore. Instead of always trying to ‘fix’ the brokenness in and around me, I am hearing an invitation to let go and offer it to Jesus.
Let Him heal, transform, and use our brokenness for something beautiful.
Being with Jesus in His Suffering
Holy Week (or also known as ‘Passion Week’) is an opportunity, in the middle of Spring when life is bursting out everywhere, to stop and enter into some of those places of loss, grief, pain, and suffering in our lives before we turn to celebrate the new life, resurrection life, and eternal life.
Many Holy Week Devotionals offer spiritual reflections and exercises that help us to enter the events that took place before Jesus’ crucifixion. They are opportunities to get glimpses of what Jesus experienced and did for us, as well as invitations to welcome Jesus into some of our own real life wounds and bruises.
Finally, I will finish the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises that I have revisited this Lenten season with these three Daily Examen Questions for the Holy Week*
Today did you recall to your mind Jesus’ willingness to suffer physical, emotional and spiritual trauma for you? Why, or why not?
How did the truth of Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for you and others impact how you interacted with others with whom you came in contact today?
How did you die to self today?
(*Questions taken from ‘Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius’ by Larry Warner.)
Here are some resources that you might like to use on your journey through the Holy Week (starting this Palm Sunday, and ending the following week on Easter Sunday).
1.'My Utmost for His Highest - Holy Week' reading plan by Oswald Chambers (8 days, starts on Palm Sunday). Open the Bible App and look for the plan by its name.
Two audio prayer guides by Pray-As-You-Go (Jesuits of Britain):
2. 'Stations of the Cross' (10 sessions, each less than 10 mins)
3. 'Into the Wilderness' (7 sessions, each 10-20 mins)
4. 'The Broken Way' video reflection by Ann Voskamp (about 20 mins)
(This is not specifically made for the Holy Week but fits well as we reflect on the suffering of Jesus.)