By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 23, 2018
Lately, in my mind’s eye, I see Jesus hanging from the cross. His face is streaked with blood and sweat, and his eyes are sorrowful.
And there’s no denying that he’s looking at me.
What does he see when he gazes at me? Someone who called herself a Christian for decades but did everything she could to avoid his cross.
Someone who figured a cancer diagnosis gave her a “get out of jail free” card when it came to more suffering.
Someone who woke up happy one day, until a phone call changed her life forever. Someone who woke up a wife and went to bed a widow.
I wish I could say I’m like the saintly souls who never complain. You see, often when a friend is telling me about someone who’s enduring a terrible disease or heartbreak, they comment, “And she never complains.”
These words cut me to the quick because I do complain, loudly and quite bitterly.
Because I’m furious that my life suddenly went from extremely happy to horrible.
I’m furious when I’m expected to do things my husband did effortlessly for decades, like fixing computer glitches, overseeing house repairs and taking the car to the shop.
I cry, get angry and complain, “This isn’t fair! I was happy!”
Still, I’ve discovered comfort in the words of Father Walter Ciszek in his insightful book “With God in America: The Spiritual Legacy of an Unlikely Jesuit.”
“The pain was so great on the cross … that Jesus even complained to God: ‘My God, why hast thou abandoned me?’”
Ciszek adds, “Thank God Christ did not accept His sufferings stoically!”
You see, if Jesus had endured his passion stoically, then we’d be inclined to believe we must suffer heartbreaks and disillusionment without murmuring or sighing or crying.
Instead, Christ showed his humanity by weeping in the Garden of Gethsemane and crying out to God as he was dying.
“If he cried, cannot we? If he showed hurt in his life, cannot we? If he begged to be relieved, cannot we?”
In “The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God,” Father Gerald Vann notes, “We sometimes think … the saints were free from our struggles and tensions and fears, as if they were able to give up home and friends and life too, without … any heartbreak.”
This notion, he says adamantly, is wrong because “holiness cannot mean that we are expected to take every pain, every sorrow, as though it were no pain or sorrow at all.”
How comforting both these priests’ words are! Somehow, thinking I had to drag around this big cross without confiding to friends how sometimes I want to give up entirely, seemed too much to bear.
And I know I’m not alone when I ask God why I have to suffer like this.
The answer is obvious but takes a long time to sink in. The answer is right there in the tear-filled eyes of the suffering man on the cross.
Jesus’ death gives meaning to the misery of diseases and old age, and the emotional agony of disappointments and grief.
His horrific suffering redeemed us—and we can, in our own faltering ways, save people too.
We can offer our crosses to God each day as prayers to help the faithful departed, along with people on earth who need conversion and healing.
No one escapes pain, and running away is futile.
And when it feels like the weight of our cross is too much to bear, we can take comfort in knowing that, as we carry it, we needn’t be holier than Christ.
“Christ under Pilate” sketch by Jef Murray. You may see more of his artwork by visiting www.jefmurray.com. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.