Suffering and the Cross
St. Paul often speaks in his letters (Philippians, 2 Corinthians and Romans for example) about sharing in Christ's sufferings. I knew this as a sort of head knowledge--intellectually. In this world we will have trouble, we must take up our cross and follow him, there will be affliction...all these things. Of course, it is difficult to really know this deeply when your life is rather comfortable.
Then I suddenly found myself laying on a stretcher in an ER. I was in excruciating pain. Moving was not an option, but staying still didn't help either. Breathing brought shooting pain from my back to my chest. You are alone. The room is dark. All kinds of questions streamed through my mind. It was intense suffering--pain, fear, loneliness, despair.
This was my experience weeks ago but something happened as I laid there. Maybe the Spirit of God, I don't know. But my thoughts turned to the cross. I began to imagine His pain, His loneliness, His suffering. I imagined His pain-filled struggle for breath. In my suffering I was brought to the cross and for a while, as I laid there, I reflected on His own suffering and death. My pain, brought me to that place were my Savior gave of Himself so that I may live. Paul writes, "for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." In that ER I lay, ungodly but redeemed, "sharing" for a moment in the suffering of Christ. Realizing the incredible cost my Savior and Lord paid so that I may live eternally, forgiven, hopeful and in peace.
Our suffering does this for us. It illustrates, if even for a brief time, what it is that Jesus has done for us and all people. Our suffering drives us to Him on that cross and to our restoration there, our forgiveness. Those thoughts brought tears to my eyes in the ER. Those thoughts brought comfort.