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Dear Catholic Who Is In the Midst of Suffering,
For those of you who are in way to much pain or despair to read this whole thing, here’s the main points:
- Jesus is with you – pray to Him and ask Him to help you feel His presence.
- Simply saying “Jesus, I know you suffered, help me to get through this just as you carried Your cross” is a way to unite your suffering with Christ’s suffering.
- Invite Jesus in your pain. He wants to “get in the boat” with you.
- It’s okay to reach out to others for help. Allow people to be with you, hold someone’s hand, hold a Rosary (Mary’s hand), accept help. Even Jesus allowed Simon to help carry His cross and Veronica to wipe His face.
I heard this phrase a couple years ago and it went straight to my heart:
“Jesus has not abandoned us when we suffer, but is with us when we suffer.”
I don’t know why this felt like news to me when I heard it.
I can’t tell you how many times I read that FOOTPRINTS poem. I mean, I think it was hanging up in my house as a child and every other house I ever visited.
Wasn’t that the whole point of that poem – to remind us that God is truly with us when we are broken hearted, in pain and absolutely in the pit of despair?
But, for some reason, this small phrase
“Jesus is with us when we suffer“
was like a lightbulb over my head if I were a cartoon character.
Then, not much after this phrase struck me, I found myself in a hospital bed for the 3rd time in two months.
After 3 emergency room visits and being admitted to the hospital twice, the doctors finally insisted on giving me a lumbar puncture.
I was terrified.
I thought the waiver I was signing was me saying,
“yep, might get paralyzed and never walk again”.
But the headaches weren’t going away and I couldn’t move my left arm or most of my face.
It was the middle of August and I had been sick most of the summer. The blood tests, CAT Scans and MRI’s didn’t provide any answers.
Ask Jesus to make His Presence Known to You
As I sat in that hospital bed waiting for the neurologist to set up, I silently said a prayer.
I asked Jesus to allow me to feel His presence during this spinal tap.
I thought, okay, this has to happen – the suffering has to happen – but it won’t be that bad if I feel Jesus with me.
So my prayer was short and simple, it went something like this:
“Jesus, please help me to feel your Presence during this spinal tap.”
This little prayer that gave me a BIG miracle!
After my prayer the Physician’s Assistant explained how the procedure would be done. The neurologist explained that if it didn’t work there was another way method they would try.
Then, a new nurse enter the room.
I had not met this nurse yet. In fact, it was the first time that I had a male nurse at all.
He put on surgical gloves and stood by the window.
I sat down as I was directed on the edge of my bed, and that new nurse walked over to me,
took my hand
and held it.
I was numbed, then the actual spinal tap occurred.
The needle hit a nerve and the whole right side of my body involuntarily twinged.
I grabbed that nurse’s hand and almost pulled him to the floor (Oh my goodness am I paralyzed???? ran through my head)
I held that hand so tight.
The doctor pulled the needle out and re-inserted it again. He didn’t seem to phased that I just almost got paralyzed.
I continued to squeeze this nurse’s hand with not only my left hand that he was holding, but my right hand that had grabbed his arm when the crazy twinge thing happened.
I was so grateful my hand was being held. I wasn’t expecting that, but boy was I grateful.
After it was over and I realized I was not paralyzed, I thanked this nurse for his act of kindness.
I also apologized for practically throwing him on the floor.
The doctor and the P.A. left and as I sat there in my room I thought about how grateful I was that nurse held my hand.
Then I remembered my prayer.
I thought about that nurse. He was the first male nurse I had in my crazy hospital adventure so far. I wondered, with humor, if his initials were “JC”. I thought, he definitely looks like he’s in his 30’s too. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if he was 33?
I continued to think about that little prayer I said.
I never thought I would physically feel Jesus with me – but Jesus used that nurse’s hand to answer my prayer!
I eventually asked the nurse his name.
He said “Justin”. His last name does not begin with C but his first initial is J!
Justin was an amazing nurse. I was lucky to have him most of the week I was on that floor and in that hospital.
His kindness was a wonderful act. He didn’t have to be in that room during the spinal tap and he certainly didn’t have to hold my hand.
When I was transferred to another hospital about a week later, I had to have another lumbar puncture. I asked if someone could hold my hand. The doctor looked at me strangely and said, “I guess we could arrange that”. Then I asked my nurse if she would stay and hold my hand. It was clear this was an unusual request.
I believe Justin ‘s kindness came from a place of Christian love. That same love probably inspires him to make a difference to his patients every day.
I eventually found out that Justin and I went to the same Catholic school and that he knew my younger brother.
This little prayer that gave me a BIG miracle!
Simply saying, “Jesus, I heard that you are with us when we suffer . . . please help me to feel you with me as I suffer” will help you too.
I wrote about this whole experience in the post https://www.prayerwinechocolate.com/silent-prayer-kind-act-go-hand-hand/
Uniting our Sufferings with Jesus
It’s amazing how long I have given serious attention to my faith, but not realized some deep truths about it.
Kate Capato, Sacred Art painter and owner of Visual Grace, has given the world a beautiful testimony about suffering and the meaning and foreshadowing given by the Wise Man who gave the gift of Myrh.
When the painting was first completed, she gave this reflection:
“Myrrh comes from a small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora in Saba and is used for medicinal purposes, burial preparations, and healing.
It also symbolized suffering.
Not only did this act as a pre-figuring to Christ’s passion and death but it was also an offering of the wiseman’s sufferings.
In essence, it was the unity of the sufferings that was the gift that day, his and Christ’s.
I discovered this profound truth and I realized Jesus was inviting me to do the very same, to offer up my daily sufferings, big and small, to unite them with His.“
This year, in honor of the Epiphany, Kate gives another inspiring story about suffering with Christ:
“Jesus didn’t lead with an example of avoiding pain but being with another in that pain. Suffering with another.
Well, I heard an analogy recently that really struck me. “A man saw a caterpillar in a cocoon struggling to get out. He felt bad for it and broke the cocoon open to ‘help’ lessen the struggle… however, when he did this, while the newly formed butterfly emerged, it fell quickly to the ground and died because it was too weak.
The struggle was necessary for It’s strength to grow and full beauty to emerge.”
Jesus often let’s us struggle and it seems harsh
but if we picture ourselves like this forming butterfly we can understand its for our greater good.
Take this analogy a step further though, because Jesus doesn’t simply watch us in pain, he embraces us. Jesus enters the cocoon too and feels what you’re feeling.
He shares in the suffering.
This image of the Wiseman who gave Myrrh is a reflection on true intimacy… what we’re all called to.
The meeting of sufferings, the embrace in the difficult journey, and the peace that comes in that very embrace knowing you’re not alone.
The King is here.
All is not in vain when it’s in union with Christ.
It is being redeemed.
How do we unite our sufferings with Christ?
I remember being in the hospital that summer and experiencing moments of relief from the pain, and wondering. . . .”can I offer the pain I experienced an hour ago to God now?”
I honestly don’t think that is how it works.
But what I realized this year, when I was reflecting on my experience as a college athlete, was that when I was young, I did, in a way, unite my sufferings with those of Christ Jesus.
I was a cross country runner in college. This year I was given the honor of being placed in the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
As I prepared my speech for the awards ceremony, I remembered how one particular hill on our home course brought immense pain and discomfort. I recalled being tempted to stop running and just walk up that damn hill.
And I remember how I got myself to resist that temptation.
I said to myself, if Jesus can carry His cross to His death, I can get up this hill without walking.
And I persevered.
No other thought was going to keep me running up that pain party.
As I reflect on that memory, I’m thinking that maybe that is one way to unite our suffering with Christ’s.
To simply say, God – I know you suffered and it hurt. If you lived through the scourging and the carrying of the cross, I can face this temporary pain.
But I also know sometimes the heartache and physical pain can feel as though it is to much to bare.
Perhaps in those moments we won’t think of giving it to God. But maybe later, we can offer it to Him.
Jesus wants you to call Him close when you are suffering
Annie Deddens from Catholic Wife, Catholic Life recently shared this short and sweet reflection about Mark 6:51
Sometimes, being the receiver of the help instead of the giver, is part of the suffering
It is truly humbling to be the one in need.
We want to be the strong ones.
We want to be the ones who help.
We want to be the heroes that come in and save the day.
But sometimes we need to let others play that role.
It actually may help their souls.
Let others help you. God might have it in His plan for their salvation.
May the Lord heal you quickly and bless you abundantly.
Love and prayers,