Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Whoever Does Not Bear His Own Cross..." Lk 14:27

How do you bear the crosses which you encounter in your life?  How  do you react when suffering, regardless of its origin, comes your way?  Do you accept it as part of life and endure it with as much dignity as possible, or do you fight it, denying its existence by seeking ways out of the situation that simply do not exist.  Do you unite your sufferings to those of Christ in order to bear them as He did?  And just how do you unite your sufferings with those of the Savior?  These are important questions because suffering is an inevitable part of life that none of us can ever fully avoid. 

Suffering.  Carrying our cross is not a concept that we are comfortable addressing unless we're trying to figure out a way to either avoid it or relieve it.  Obviously, if we can, we should avoid suffering at all costs.  It is the healthy and life preserving thing to do!  If we or someone we know is suffering, it is good to try to relieve their pain.  That, too, is the healthy and good thing to do.  Unfortunately, we cannot always avoid suffering nor relieve it.  We must witness it silently, understanding that there is nothing we can do about the situation.

Jesus offers no way out, there is no way around suffering.  He flatly states that if we are to follow Him we must take up our crosses and come after Him.  We must endure such suffering in the same way as He did-- with complete faith and confidence in the will of His Father. 

Jesus suffered all of His life because He knew that He bore the sins of the world in order that we all might have a share in eternal life.  He bore His cross to Calvary quietly and with dignity even though He was a completely innocent man condemned to die in the most unthinkable way.  He did not become impatient with us on His life's journey to Calvary because His love for us overcame our sinfulness. 

Suffering is not an easy thing to endure.  Suffering can take many forms, of course.  We can experience physical suffering.  Many endure psychological suffering.  Still others encounter espiritual suffering that is often accompanied by feelings of great emptiness.  Regardless of the nature of the suffering, human nature itself can be pushed and tested to the very limits through suffering, bearing one's cross.

Recently,  a family member was hospitalized following an injury.  Subsequent tests revealed that what caused the injury in the first place was cancer in its latter stages.  This was shocking news since this person has had a long history of good health. 

Family members were in shock at this completely unforeseen news.  No one knew quite what to say or how to say it.  Shock turned to worry.   Worry about how the future will pan out.  Worry about how to make this beloved member of the family comfortable and happy.  Worry about expenses that illnesses inevitably bring.  Fear of how each individual will react to the news and the undeniable outcome.  All of these things represent a cross that will be borne by each and every one.

When we say we will unite our sufferings with those of Christ, we do not to say that once we do this successfully, the sting of the suffering will disappear.  Quite the contrary.  Remember, while Jesus hung on the cross, one of the Romans offered him a sponge soaked in a mild sedative so as to relieve His pain and make Him more comfortable.  Jesus refused.  This seemingly strange refusal of aid teaches us that to suffer as Christ suffered we must be open to the pain that accompanies all suffering.  Instead of focusing on avoiding or alleviating pain that will not be dissipated, but, instead, focusing on the will of God and the love He has for us, will soothe our souls, thus allowing the peace of Christ to enter our hearts even during moments of the most intense pain we may encounter. 

We must never seek out suffering for this is a sick and twisted way of living.  However, we must also learn that not all suffering can be overcome by some modern day miracle drug or treatment.  The suffering of the human heart is often without treatment.  However, the one thing that Christ promises is that if we but follow Him while carrying our own crosses, we will taste His peace that is not of this world.

All of us, because of our own individuality, must decide for ourselves as to how to properly carry the crosses in our own lives.  We must also come to grips with the fact that our human nature will fight us on this since to avoid pain altogether is innate within us.  Without this desire for survival with as minimal pain as possible while still acknowledging for what it is, we might as well give up on ourselves.  For we will never move forward in life without the burdens of unresolved suffering.