Devotional Thought fo the Day:
14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. Hebrews 4:14-16 (TEV)
Do not limit your patience to such or such kind of injuries and afflictions, but extend it to all such as it shall please God to send you. Some are unwilling to suffer any tribulations, but such as are honourable; for example, to be wounded in battle, to be a prisoner of war, to be persecuted for religion, or to be impoverished by some lawsuit determined in their favour. Now, these people do not love the tribulation, but the honour which accompanies it; whereas, he that is truly patient, suffers tribulations indifferently, whether accompanied by ignominy or honour.
As I write this, in the background is Anne Hathaway’s version of “I dreamed a dream” from the movie version of Les Mis. I can’t help but think of the character, and the background found in the novel. ALothough in the beginning a victim of her own sin, others make her misery and despair far more oppressive.
Some, like Val Jean, do so without thought. Others, like the Innkeeper and his wife, or the supervisor in the shop, do so with evil and malice.
Either way, the suffering is real, the oppression stifling, the pain incapacitating.
As I read St. Francis De Sales words this morning, it, this idea of unnecessary suffering started dominating my thoughts. How do we deal with the suffering we don’t deserve, the pains that are caused by others, or whose biological cause cannot be blamed on anyone.
Things like my genetic heart issues, my dear friend’s ongoing battle with cancer, the unknown victims of terrorism and their families, those who suffer from PTSD, or some other mental illness and those who suffer with them.
This is different than the cyber-crusader who looks and desires and rejoices in his being “persecuted for rightness ( not righteousness) sake.” Those people love the honor they receive from being a victim, and they deserve the persecution and the problems.
But what about the innocent who suffer? Or those who suffering is so compounded by others neglect or deliberate harm?
As one, I’ve learned the hard way, through many sleepless nights, and times of tears that I cannot justify the suffering, I cannot find the “why” that I so desperately want to know. I can strike out in anger, I can slip into the deepest of depression, I can, and have at times, hoped the suffering would simply end.
Those thoughts don’t diminish the suffering, if anything, it gives the suffering more power over me, increasing the anxiety. Nor am I strong enough, on my own, to avoid those feelings.
I need to be patient, with these things I cannot explain, with the pain I can’t bear on my own. I need to have the patience De Sales calls for, I need the assurance of God’s empathy and benevolence of a God who invites me into HIS presence. I need to have the confidence to look to HIM, to understand how His innocent suffering had a purpose, and that somehow God will use mine for good.
It is not an easy task, coming to this conclusion, gaining this confidence. It is one I often fail to achieve, as this day or that is spent letting the darkness enclose me. Devotion is the answer, not devotions (remember – my strength had already failed), but devotion. Considering Christ’s devotion to me, and as I do, growing to adore Him.
There is the answer. Considering the depth of Christ’s devotion, there I find the hope that enable the patience I need, the strength to endure, the ability to take my mind off of my problems. Being encouraged by others, who endure, and hear my words and find the same strength to endure. That helps me realize the depth of Christ’s empathy. As odd as it sounds, I can embrace the suffering, knowing His suffering that He embraced. For He embraced it for a simple reason. He loved you andI.
Will I need the encouragement of others, pointing me back to the cross? Yes! Will I still struggle at times? After 45 years of dealing with this, the answers is, yes. But I know I will come out of the depths, sustained by Jesus, who volunteered to suffer so that I would know His empathy, HIs love, and ultimately, His peace.
This is my goal for today, to walk confidently into His presence, to accept His invitation to walk with Him.
And to pray you will boldly, confidently walk with our God as well.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.