Lately, I have been astounded by the weight of the crosses that some of my fellow companions on this journey are carrying around.
What astounds me most is that they carry their crosses joyfully, for the most part. Until they inform me of the crosses they are bearing, I have no idea that they are under such burdens, carrying such heavy loads.
It just goes to show you that all of us are suffering to some degree and in some form. But when someone suffers joyfully, I am impressed with their fortitude. I am amazed at the strength that God gives us to endure. As my friend Shawn once said much more eloquently than I shall say now, God equips us with what we need just when we need it.
Suffering is such a horrible thing. And my heart aches when I hear about my family members or friends who are suffering. I wish there was something I could do to alleviate the weight of their crosses or to remove it from their backs entirely. Even the tiny crosses we carry are like annoying thorns in our side, and I sometimes feel helpless to help my loved ones.
But while suffering is indeed a horrible thing, it is also redemptive. Suffering is the difficult path that our Jesus chose, so to follow in His Way is indeed a noble thing. By aligning our sufferings with His, I believe we can share in and thus alleviate some of the pain He experienced on Calvery (since spiritual realities are not bound by time and space). Suffering can be made meaningful and can be made into the most powerful form of prayer that a person give.
Sometimes, when I see all my students enter my classroom, I pretend to see the big crosses they are dragging in with them. It helps me to feel compassion for the kid who grunted instead of responded with words to my "Good morning." It helps me to remember that the girl who forgot her homework did so because she's understandably got more important things on her mind, like the fact that her parents are going through a divorce. It helps me to remember that Johnny's calculator is not here because his parents couldn't afford one, and I'm not going to let his situational circumstance affect his educational opportunities.
I wish I could share with you the personal stories of suffering that I have heard lately. Last night I talked to two girlfriends for at least an hour each, one through Skype and one on the regular telephone. And while this experienced kept me up late and caused me to go without dinner, my God, I had absolutely no reason to complain.
I stand in awe, looking at the strong pillars of faith embodied in persons which stand around me in this life, joyfully suffering or sacrificing all for their God, doing their best with whatever He has chosen to permit to come into their lives.
They have more than just inspired me; they have pointed the way to true happiness, freedom, and truth!