Christ is present with us in each moment of our lives, but so often we only turn to Him during our times of suffering and despair. Within this past year, I have faced some of the biggest struggles of my life and felt as if I was stripped of everything except my relationship with the Lord. In that, I came to realize how little I relied on God until I was in the midst of great suffering.
I first want to preface this by mentioning that everyone suffers as a consequence of mortal sin and being part of a broken world. Each and every individual suffers but it may look different for each of us. Regardless of whether you feel that your suffering is insignificant or that other people have worse situations than you do, your hurts and feelings are still entirely valid, and Lord sees and knows them. For me personally, it wasn’t until I was faced with suffering that I was able to see where Christ was with me in my sorrow.
For most of my life I struggled to comprehend how Christ could possibly relate to my life. I wasn’t able to see the ways His earthly life was similar to mine in any way. But a few months ago as I was reading scripture. I began to reflect on the simple verse, “Jesus wept,” in John 11:35. What I find to be most moving about this scripture is how Jesus still weeps for the loss of someone He loves, even though He knows He will soon resurrect Lazarus from the dead. He weeps out of pity and sorrow for those mourning the loss of someone they loved dearly. Jesus’s heart is moved with pity for each one of us. He does not look at our suffering and tell us to move on, but rather, He sits with us and weeps. And so much like the reading in John, after He weeps, He raises us from the dead. He makes us new and gives us more than what we had lost previously.
In C.S. Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed, he mentions how Christ allows suffering because it wrecks our “house of cards.” Suffering causes our priorities to shift and forces us to examine our lives and see what is preventing us from being rooted in Christ. The Lord does not cause suffering, but He allows it to happen in order to guide us unto a deeper union with Him and a conversion within our own lives.
About six months ago, I remember sitting in the chapel asking the Lord why he would allow me to suffer so greatly, and He reminded me of how there cannot be a resurrection without the crucifixion. The Lord cannot make us new if we do not allow ourselves to suffer. Even more importantly, Christ cannot transform us if we do not allow Him into our suffering. Knowing that there is a resurrection after the crucifixion allows for each of us to endure our suffering with the hope that the Lord will bring beauty and newness out of it.
Finally, we must also root ourselves daily in Christ and recognize how we always need Him, even in times of abundant successes and blessings. If we humbly remain steadfast in our reliance on Him, then it will truly strengthen our fortitude and our capacities to remain faithful to Him through times of great suffering. May we exude the same radical trust that led Job to cry out, “The LORD has given and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD,” in Job 1:21, no matter the circumstances.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.2 Corinthians 4:17