"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." (Jn 15: 9) We who believe in Jesus and His good news of salvation find comfort in these words and well we should. They are of supreme comfort especially in times of distress when God seems so silent to us. But have you ever contemplated what this truly means? Have you ever thought just how God loved Jesus and now Jesus assures us that He loves us in the same manner of His Father?
Think about it for a moment. When we find ourselves in distress, those moments that accompany every life, we seek comfort. What we often mean by comfort is relief from our troubles. We want them to go away as quickly as possible. That is completely understandable. None of wants pain or suffering in our lives and when we experience these powerful moments, we want to be rid of them as soon as possible. We turn to God and may plea with Him, "Take my troubles away from me, O Father of us all!" We may call out to Him using one of the Psalms. "Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord! O Lord, hear the sound of my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!" (Psalm 130: 1-2)
Jesus is certain to have used this very Psalm at times in His life. He was a good and faithful Jew and not only knew well the Psalms but used these sacred poems as prayer day in and day out. But we must look at the relationship between Jesus and His Father to gain a better understanding on how God's love was manifested to His Son.
The prime example of this is Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, as His Passion neared, Jesus, alone and isolated, cries out to His Father that His suffering may be eliminated. He knows what is ahead for Him and He is gripped with fear in this humbling moment. But Jesus, understanding His Father's will for Him, sets aside His own will and surrenders to the will of the Father, the God of us all. This did not come automatically. Before Jesus surrenders to His Father's will by saying, "Not my will, but thine, be done." (Lk 22: 42) From this moment on, Jesus followed God's will completely even though it meant an excruciatingly painful and humbling death at the hands of the Romans.
In the process of His death and resurrection, Jesus obtained relief for the whole human race. He suffered under the brutal hands of the Roman executioners who represented us because it was through our sins our Lord was brought to this point. But before relief, eternal life, could be obtained, it was necessary for the Son to succumb to untold pain and humiliation. He could not escape this because He surrendered to the will of God and the will of the Father is the beginning and end of everything.
When we suffer in this life, be it suffering from physical sources, psychological reasons, or even spiritual darkness, we must seek out God's will for us. How should we handle this situation? We must not automatically seek instant relief from the moment because our current state of life may very well be the will of the Father for our lives in that moment. We can never pretend that any of us understands the mind of God!
We must go to the Father in prayer just as His Son did on the night before He died. There are many ways that we can seek out the Father's will for us. We can look to sacred scripture to find the will of the Father for us. We can send out from our hearts a plea to the Lord of all for direction. We can plunge ourselves into silence to wait to hear the voice of the Lord for the Lord's voice is often that still, small voice which goes unnoticed amidst the bustle of daily life.
Most importantly, we must acknowledge the will of the Father as our will so that we will achieve true eternal happiness one day, even though it may mean we must suffer for the time being. When we suffer, we must understand that God often uses this suffering to help us understand our complete dependence on Him. After all, we are more apt to go to God in our pain then when we are experiencing the good times of our lives. It is only human.
Jesus, again, is our example in this. As Jesus hung on the cross, He was stripped entirely of everything. He had no possessions. He had no comfort. He had no friends. Everyone, it seems, was taunting Him. His complete aloneness must have been frightening! However, instead of becoming discouraged and giving into the desolation of the moment, He turned to His Father and gave to Him His life for all. He did not turn away from the will of the One Who sent Him. In the end of His mortal life, Jesus not only understood His complete dependency on the Father, but He embraced it in the wood of the cross. He did not give up, nor did He turn His back on His Father. He kept His focus clearly on the Father and emerged from the experience victoriously.
Here is our perfect model. We, like Jesus, must embrace our suffering as a sign of the Father's love for us for it is through this suffering that we are reminded of the depth of the love of God for us. This is not the way the world sees suffering. We are to escape suffering at all costs using any means possible for the escape. I am not suggesting that when we suffer we should not seek relief, but I am saying that there are many times throughout life when suffering is inevitable. We cannot escape it! So, rather than fight it, feeling rejected and dejected, we must embrace it. In that moment we can truly claim the love that God has for us and we can truly find the relief that the world cannot provide.
God's love is not some sort of fluff ball all warm and fuzzy all the time. It can be the most challenging thing we encounter, but if we embrace that love as did His Son all throughout His life, our reward shall be great and we shall not be denied eternal life. Because the Father allows suffering into our lives, we know that we can turn to Him in any moment of life with our innermost and most intimate of pleas and know we shall be heard!
God is, indeed, love!