Lately I've been feeling very ill. I'm not sure what is wrong, but I am in constant pain and it hasn't been easy. In the midst of this pain, an image keeps appearing in my mind. An image that my pastor shared with me a few weeks ago and I just can't get it out of my head. Not in these exact words, but he tells me to picture a sea of crosses, people crucified and suffering on their crosses. Watch how each one suffers. Keep looking until you find Christ and witness His suffering. This is how we want to suffer; in love.
So that image has stuck, and each time I feel pain, the mental image of a mountaintop full of crucifixions appears and I roam, searching for Jesus's way to suffer.
It's never easy to look at our lives, to see what the now has presented to us and be okay with it all. It's hard to look into the eyes of the person or people that broke you and say "I forgive you." It's very hard not to judge, not to assume. It's even harder to think that this person, these people are God's children, made in the image and likeness of Him, that perhaps they too are broken and just don't know how to cope, how to suffer in love. The pastor also reminded me that even Jesus on that very cross showed pain and hurt.
Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?
“My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
—Mark 15:34 (GNT)
But He never succumbed to those feelings. Instead, He remained on that cross. He remained in His suffering.
Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus taught us that when we suffer, not to do so with a sad face, but groom ourselves and walk tall. It doesn't mean to hide what we are going through, but to find the purpose of that suffering and wear it like a badge.
Like a cross around one's neck.
I've slowly learned to look at that cross and feel my heart fill up with so many emotions. Not because He suffered and died, but because He suffered and died for me! And at first it was hard to watch, it was difficult to keep looking into His eyes, but the end result isn't the end, but the very priceless beginning of a salvation that no one can give you but Jesus. Looking up at Him on that cross began as a painful task, but is now such a moment full of sentiment, full of love.
You did that for me Jesus?
No one has ever done that for me before.
But why are we allowed to suffer? Why does God let tragedies occur? How can He be so...mean?
Madonna said it best. "Pain is a warning that something's wrong."
Something is wrong. Something is not right with God. In this suffering, what is God trying to tell us? What is He trying to show us? Think about it.
When I am suffering through a hard day with my children, perhaps God wants me to know that my dealing with them is not working. When a child is suffering a deadly disease, perhaps God wants to bring that family closer to Him. When some one is killed, maybe God wants to show those left behind what it is to forgive.
I don't know what God reasons are for all the suffering in the world, but I do know that He has a plan to set it right and I trust in His plan.
Even if it means I may have to suffer through it.
And I may never know the purpose if I don't remain still in my suffering. If I react, if I move wildly, try to escape, I may just end up suffering again, suffering more, until He gets His point across, until He fixes what needs to be fixed, heals what needs to be healed. I have to give Him the opportunity to transform my suffering into His glory.
Because Jesus promised us that if we endured to the end we would be saved.
From the smallest pain, to the biggest affliction, from the saddest past to the hurtful, repressed memories, from the frustrating days, to the news of terrible tragedy, if I am to suffer, I should suffer like Him, full of love and forgiveness despite the whirlwind of hurt and pain. I am His and I suffer for Him, just as He suffered for me.
Take your part in suffering, as a loyal soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3 (GNT)