I had two unique experiences this weekend with suffering. I have been thankful for the comparison of the two situations for I have learned much. Both situations have to do with the active choices we have in our response to one's own or someone's suffering.
The first experience was awful for me. In my own sensitivity to my cross, I was approached....let's just say, poorly. I have been LOVED and embraced so much and so tenderly, however, I have had many experiences with foolish tongues as well. Some days I can easily brush such "good intentioned" non-prudent comments or encounters. Some days, they just hurt deeply. I don't need to go into details of this encounter, but after it, I left feeling so heavy. I felt as if this cross I'm carrying was undermined and simply pitied. Fortunately, I was able to be embrace by Jesus through the arms and words of my mother-in-law and husband. My soul was renewed and stronger after. God allowed all of it to happen so I might come through better. I see and know how in our human weakness we can be repulsed by suffering when it comes too close. Watching it on the news and offering up a prayer is much different than coming face to face with a person who is deeply suffering. This reaction of our flesh can sometimes override one's compassion and prudence in speech. I know I have been on both ends of the tongue. After God renewed my strength that night, I asked Him to give me someone who was greatly suffering so I could embrace them in the way I was not. I wanted because of my own deep suffering, to suffer with someone else, whether it be for a minute, an hour, or a day. I desired truly and deeply to give someone else in pain, the compassion and comfort I, myself, did not receive. The Lord answered my prayer.
The next day I was given a random opportunity to do just that. I encountered a living saint in the midst of battle, the midst of fire. I got to pray with her and ask my sweet Stella for her unceasing and powerful intercession. My daughter and I were in "business" together! We worked together. It was so special for me. I was given the absolute gift to suffer with another member of the body part of Christ. She serves me in her suffering, she serves all of humanity in her suffering, just as each of us does when it is offered to the throne of God. I felt connected to her in our spirit because we both carry such heavy crosses, different, but heavy. It was the same experience and comfort I receive when I sit with one of my books on a saint. I don't know the soul personally but there is a mutual love and connection, like family.
I can't write for her, so I can't say what her experience was. I can tell you mine. I received a real embrace from heaven. As soon as I put my hand on her, tears filled my eyes because my spirit recognized the Kingdom in her, my Jesus in her. I felt her closeness to heaven. It was overwhelming to me. I received grace for my own suffering and strength from her strength. I saw how we are all bound together through and with Jesus. I experienced being the hands and heart of Jesus for one of His precious souls. When we truly suffer with someone, even if for only moment, torrents of goodness, beauty, holiness, and grace are released. It is undeniable. It is life giving and life changing. Deep and real compassion is completely different than pity. We not only get to be a vessel for Christ when we suffer with someone else, we get to do something truly amazing, something that surpasses time it takes us back over 2000 years.
When we encounter someone suffering, we are encountering the crucified Christ. When we truly embrace a suffering soul, we are telling and showing Jesus as He hangs on His cross, "See, Jesus, I remain. When other have ran away and left you, I... re...main." We comfort our very own Jesus' soul on the path of Calvary, like Simon, Veronica, or His most blessed Mother. Such a task is not always easy because suffering in others can unnerve things in us. But, grace is there. Grace will be there. And if we trust God to get us past those negative emotions and comfort and love a suffering soul, healing in oneself takes place! The only way Jesus can heal each of us is if...We REMAIN.
So...I offer a challenge to every one this week if you're up to it. Ask God to send you someone that you can suffer with, even for a moment. Comfort then from the depth of your soul. It is real encounter between heaven and earth and you will not only give hope to someone in pain, but you will be given much in return. And if you want to email and share your encounter, I would LOVE to hear of it. Blessings