Lately, I have been screaming inside, pretty much all day every day, because I am having a hard time, and I am being honest about it. Over and over again I see the weary faces of everyone around me. I don’t blame them for being sick of hearing it. I’m sick of hearing my own thoughts most days. I feel so guilty for not being happy through my suffering. There are these saints who are so joyful and happy the whole time they are suffering, and it is so hard for me. Their stories make me angry, because I’m tired and overwhelmed, and I don’t have it in me to be the king of comedy some days. Something revolutionary occurred to me today though, Jesus did not suffer joyfully.
When Jesus was being crucified, He was not making jokes. He didn’t smile the whole time. He didn’t beg for more suffering. In fact, He begged God to take it away from Him! Before His crucifixion, He went out to a garden and cried, to the point that He sweated blood because He was so overwhelmed by what He was doing. We know this because He literally begged God to take it away. He did say, “Not My will, but Thine be done,” but FIRST He begged that it be taken away.
So many Catholics talk about looking forward to suffering, and desiring suffering, but even Jesus didn’t WANT to suffer. He accepted it, but He didn’t ask for it like candy. My entire life this has confused me and made me feel so inferior to all of the other Catholics around me. Even Jesus, didn’t ask to suffer.
What about the saints who said things like “for Jesus Christ I would suffer still more?” Again, it’s willingness to suffer for a purpose, not a desire to suffer. We are not meant to want this life to be hard. Just like Jesus, we can beg for it to be taken away, and that doesn’t mean that we don’t accept it if it doesn’t.
Each time He begged for it to be taken away, Jesus went to see His apostles. They were sleeping! He was devastated, and He called them out on it. How many times have you had a friend, husband, boyfriend, whatever, who fell asleep on you when you were having a really hard time? Or even just wasn’t there? Sometimes I wonder, if they had stayed awake and prayed with Him, would He have been spared? Time and again I have been spared suffering because of the prayers of my friends. What if His friends had been there for Him that night? He asked them to watch and pray.
Then, the rest of the story. We all know how the rest goes. No one has ever tried to portray Jesus as laughing or giggling or making jokes while He went through what He went through. It would be insane. It would be insane to laugh and giggle while He suffered the way He did. In fact, in the Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson one of the thieves makes a sarcastic joke about Jesus and laughs, and his eye gets pecked out. That is the only kind of laughter that could be present in that moment.
The Catholics among us will be arguing, but what about the martyrs, we should be laughing and happy when we are suffering. After I gave birth to my first living daughter, I was so happy. I was beaming and thrilled and I had energy, and I was walking around like nothing had happened. It wasn’t that I wasn’t suffering or in pain, I was. I believe it was a mix of two things: 1. My baby was alive, and that was what mattered(which for the saints it would be, they haven’t turned on God, and that’s what really mattered) and 2. I had a multitude of people praying for me. I believe that I had immense amounts of grace to be as joyful and grateful as I was in that situation. I believe that in that situation I was meant to feel that way, but Jesus’ suffering shows us that not all suffering works that way. Not all suffering is the kind where you feel abundant amounts of joy throughout. There are times when a person feels abandoned, hopeless, exhausted, lonely, and we do not have to pretend to be happy at those times in order to be saints.
Jesus wept when Lazarus died, and He knew He could resurrect Him. He comforted the weeping women on His path to death. He drew a line in the sand for the adulterous woman. He cried out from the Cross and asked why God had abandoned Him. Jesus does not ask us to deny our emotions.
If Jesus were here with us today, and suffering in a less obvious way, the reaction to each of these situations would be different. I say this, because they have been in my life. When Emma died, I had Catholics tell me that she was in Heaven as if this was why I could not be sad about it. When other people were suffering, they told me they didn’t have time for me. When people thought I had sinned, even if I hadn’t, they held grudges against me, they sat in judgement against me. When I asked why God had abandoned me, they told me that obviously I wasn’t listening to what He wanted in my life, they told me I must have not said the Rosary that day, they told me all my sins.
This year, I read in the book of Job that God was angry with Job’s friends for doing exactly these things to him. He asked Job for his repentance, but told him he was no worse than the other sinners. He told him that He doesn’t know what God is up to in His suffering, and to release that up to God, but his friends were wrong. He asked Job to pray for them. Job did, and God saved them because of his prayers.
I don’t bring up my own suffering to ingratiate myself, or to make myself seem like I am as good as Jesus. I bring it up, because as much as I may have turned on other people when I should have been there, I have been in Jesus’ shoes too in some ways, and I have had people turn on me. The worst struggle was always feeling like something was wrong with me because I was having a hard time. Jesus had a hard time. Jesus wept.
So, if you are having a hard time, and you are weary, and you are trying to put on a brave face,
Stop trying to pretend you are ok.
It is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad.
No, we can’t let it destroy us and take over our lives, but you can let your guard down and let other people see that it’s harder than they know.
What if Jesus hadn’t seemed sad? Would we have cared? Would we have understood what He was going through?
I think no. I think our emotions matter more than we give them credit for, and this culture of denying them, that even a lot of the Church has bought into is so dangerous. It ruins lives, it ruins people, and it creates a deep and complete loneliness that can never be healed because no one can see it.
So heal it in the people next to you, and let them heal yours, only then will we be the kind of people who would rise up against the Crucifixion and save Him.