The Importance of Worshiping as a Family

As a child, I went to church every week.  There was no question. We went to Sunday School, which was not offered at the same time as the Sunday liturgy, and then we stayed for the church service.  We were there for at least 2 1/2 hours every Sunday. My parents attended bible study as my brother and I attended Sunday School and then we went to church and sat in the front left pew (I am a creature of habit, you will still find me there every Sunday) as a family.  We dressed in our Sunday best, many times had brunch after church, and started our day focused on Jesus.

I will readily admit there were days that my mom had to drag us to church as we got older.  Sleeping in until noon was a greater priority for my brother and I as we entered High School, but she encouraged us to go nonetheless.  Yes, there were out of town soccer games that would interrupt our going to the later service, but those days, my mom would just wake us up early, go to the early service, and then bring our clothes to change into so we could make it on time.  I am absolutely, 100% sure it was stressful for my mom. We were whining, tired, hungry, bored, lazy kids who didn’t want to be there, but we went. And those Sunday’s formed me into the person I am today. I believe all of that time spent in church eventually led me to search for the Truth which changed my path and brought me to the Catholic church.

Our current church has been going through some changes in children’s programming to enable families to worship together during Mass (elimination of preschool PSR during the Mass).  This past week, as I have had many of my friends calling me, asking me questions, getting angry, and expressing their views of the changes, I have been more acutely aware of the importance of worshiping as a family.  

During Holy Week, my family started the week visiting St.Anthony’s Chapel.  To see my kids interested in the 5,000 relics while at the same time being respectful, reverent, bowing every time they crossed the altar, and speaking in a whisper as they lit candles and sent up prayers for the faithful departed, I was reminded of the holiness that is growing in their hearts through their love of Jesus and the Eucharist (by the way, all of their actions were not prompted, they have simply learned how to act because we are at Mass and they know Jesus is present).

All three of my kids worshiped on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday and they were so good.  Yes, there may have been some arguing in the pew with their sibling, dropping of hymnals, and needing to go to the bathroom during the consecration, but they were there and they heard God’s word and felt his presence even if it didn’t seem like it.

I will never forget Easter Sunday when we were singing the “Alleluia” right before the Gospel reading and I hear this little voice, my five year old’s voice, singing the words as she was coloring.  It was like an angels voice, soft and sweet. That moment made me realize just how much she is learning by being in Mass. She is learning prayers, stories from the bible, and songs that she can recall in times of need, just as I did by learning the Lutheran liturgy in my upbringing, which I never would have done had my parents not taken me every week.  My daughter can’t read, but she is taking part in the most Holy sacrifice of the Mass, and there isn’t a week that goes by when she doesn’t ask “Mom, when can I have the Christ?”.

I look forward to the day she can receive our Lord and Savior; body, blood, soul and divinity.  But before that day comes, I find peace in knowing that no matter how stressful it is for a parent to get their kids to church on time and then expect them to behave, they are learning and growing in a deeper relationship with our Lord and seeds are being planted that will give them hope in the dark days that are yet to come.  

The Magnificent Burden of Sunday Morning

It is so easy to skip church on Sunday.  All I have to do is reach over, turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.  No more waking the kids up for the 7th day this week.  No more hustling them to eat their breakfast and get into their church clothes so we are at Mass on time.  No more worrying about what other people think of my kids when they are climbing all over the pew, dropping the hymnal, doing the dab in the front row, needing to go potty during the consecration of the Eucharist, or screaming because their sibling pinched them.  No more sweat running down my face as I look around at all of the other people in church with well behaved children or retiree’s with no children glaring at me as if I need to get control of my kids.  It is so much easier for me to just stay home, get up late, make a nice big breakfast (or better yet go out to breakfast), workout, and enjoy one of the only days of the week I have the opportunity to sleep in.

But that is not what Jesus asks us to do.  Look, I get it.  I really do.  I have three kids of varying ages.  My three kids are involved in soccer, choir, horseback riding, Pony Club, golf, and soon to be basketball and baseball.  The kids put up a fuss every Sunday about going, but in the end, they know it isn’t a choice, it is a commitment our family has made to God.  This commitment will hopefully instill the faith and hope that is needed to get us through to our final days where we will stand before God and the door will be opened for us to enter eternity together.

You might be saying to yourself “I never made church a priority and my kids are now older and they won’t want to go” or “My daughter wants to play Division 1 soccer and her games and tournaments fall on Sunday” or “The church we go to doesn’t offer child care/Sunday school during Mass and I have a very active 2 year old who won’t sit still” or any multitude of other excuses for not making church a priority on Sunday.  But let me ask you this, did you know that studies show that children who are not exposed to church have only a 9% chance of going later in life?  Did you know that within two generations your family will not believe in God at all?  That is a scary thought. Much scarier than my 13 year old’s wrath when I wake her up early Sunday morning.

So many of us view church as a burden.  The burden of getting up early.  The burden of having to explain to the coach why Mass is more important than a soccer game.  The burden of chasing our kids around the church.  The burden of sometimes dragging our teens kicking and screaming out of bed.  The burden of listening to a homily or music that we don’t like while at Mass.

This Holy Week we remember that Jesus died for us.  He died a horrible brutal death to save us from our sinfulness.  Every time he was kicked, spit upon, beaten, scourged, and chastised that was you and me.  Every single one of those blows has our names on them.  That is burden.

The burden that Jesus Christ carried to the cross is unfathomable.  All of my sins.  The sins of the world.  The people He loved then, turning their backs on Him.  The people He loves now, continuing to turn their backs on Him.  Don’t turn your back on Him.  Respond to his love.  Keep the Sabbath Holy.  Instead of using the words “It’s Sunday, we have to go to church”, use the words “It’s Sunday, we GET to go to church”.  And, most importantly, we GET to receive Jesus body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist.

In closing, I wanted to leave you with this reflection that I read yesterday in the Magnificat.  May this Easter bring you back to the Church to experience God’s love in the most intimate gift He left here on earth, the Eucharist.

Our Last Communion –  “He dipped the morsel, then took it and gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot.” —John 13:26

At Saturday’s Easter Vigil and in the next two months, many people, especially children, will be celebrating their First Communions. This will be the first time they receive the Body and Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. These First Communions will be among the greatest events in their lives.

Yet what about your last Communion? Will it rightly be called “Viaticum,” meaning “on the way with Jesus” to heaven? Or will it be like the Last Supper when Jesus gave “the bit of food” to Judas (Jn 13:26)? “Immediately after, Satan entered his heart” (Jn 13:27). Will your last Communion be months or years before your death, or moments before your death and entry into heaven? Is Communion “kid’s stuff” for you, or the center and heartbeat of your daily life?

Tomorrow, we will celebrate throughout the world Holy Thursday, the day of the first Communion of all time. Make a new first Communion on Holy Thursday — the first time you’ve ever loved the Lord so much. If you continue and grow in the first love (see Rv 2:4) of this new first Communion, your last Communion will be a Holy Communion of love leading to heaven.

 

 

 

My Prayer Plan

As I sit down to write this, I take what feels like my first breath of the morning and feel relief.  I have been up since six o’clock this morning running around frantically to make it to a special event at my oldest daughter’s school, drop my son of at his school, run home to pickup my youngest to deliver her to yes, a third school, meet a friend to drop something off, and return home to meet a flooring guy about a quote.  It is only ten o’clock.  My best laid plans for the morning are shot.

How many times has this happened to you in your prayer life?  How many times have you told yourself, “Tomorrow, I’m going to spend quiet time (10, 30, 60 minutes) in prayer.” and then something unexpected happens?  I get it.  I’m a parent too.  I have three beautiful, spirit filled kids who keep me busy in ways I never thought possible.

For years I struggled with finding time for God.  For years I sacrificed my time with Him for everything else going on in my life.  But now, I make sure I spend time every day, even if only for a few minutes, with Him in prayer.

Here are my suggestions to helping you establish a prayer life that is beautiful, fulfilling, constant, and allows you to hear God’s voice even in the midst of your busy life.  Doing these things will not guarantee success, but they will help you succeed a little more each day.  Remember, this took me years to develop and I still fail from time to time, but my connection to God has brought me to a place in my spiritual journey that I never thought possible.  It has changed my entire outlook on faith, love, suffering, joy, acceptance, and the quest toward holiness.

Go to Mass/Church – There is simply no better way to spend time with our Lord in prayer than at Mass.  The Mass is one long prayer.  When you are in Mass, you hear God speak through scripture, you encounter the scriptures in your daily life through the homily, and you get to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  The entire Mass is biblical in nature.  If someone questions your knowledge of the bible, simply recite the prayers, responses, and simple hymns that are sung during Mass, they are all directly from the Bible.  Did you know that if you go to Mass every day for three years, you will have heard the entire Bible read to you during the Liturgy of the Word?  It’s amazing how much you can learn and encounter Christ by spending one hour of your weekend at Mass.

Create a home filled with reminders of Him – There isn’t a room in my house that doesn’t have some sort of spiritual reminder.  The artwork found around my home exudes God, whether it be quotes from scripture, our mealtime prayer, pictures of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Holy Water font I have hanging near the door we most often use to exit the house.  Everywhere you look, you are reminded of our Lord.  I have at least one crucifix/cross in each room of my house.  I recently had a complete stranger come to the house to do some work and he commented how peaceful the house felt.  By having these reminders surrounding me, Jesus is never far from my mind.

Chores can wait! –  The kids are taking naps, playing at a friend’s house, at the grandparents, or at school for the day and you have an hour or more to accomplish something around your house.  Oh my goodness, you have been given a gift, a free moment of time.  These moments are cherished by busy parents.  What do I usually do with this free time, chores.  My list of chores gets longer every day and sometimes I feel like I may never get caught up; clean the dishes from breakfast, fold the laundry, scrub a dirty toilet, make my bed (who am I kidding, this never gets done), pickup the toys, sweep the kitchen floor, the list goes on and on.

Chores used to be my favorite excuse as to why I couldn’t find the time to pray.  Now, I pray first, then do the chores.  The dishes will still be dirty, the toilet will still need scrubbed, but your mind will be set at ease and you will better encounter the daily grind with Jesus walking by your side.

If you are anything like me, you are sitting there saying, “How can I pray when I have a list a mile long that needs done?”.  Trust me.  Leave the chores.  Take a walk.  Find a quiet spot in your house.  Go outside on your porch.  You will be amazed at what God will reveal to you, and instead of entering chore time thinking about how much you hate doing them, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and able to do the chores in peace.

Set a reminder on your phone – Do you ever get alerts on your phone?  Ding…a text message just arrived.  Beep…someone just messaged you on Facebook.  Ring…you just earned a new character on Subway Surfers.

I decided a few years ago to turn off all of my notifications except one, the one that alerts me to pray.  I downloaded an app called Universalis.  This app alerts me seven times a day to pray.  The sound that comes from the alert is a church bell.  I hear the alert and God is instantly brought to my mind.  Sometimes I sit and pray a few minutes and other times I simply pray “God, come to my assistance, Lord, make haste to help me.”.  Develop a prayer of your own, setup an alert on your phone and bring Him to mind throughout your day even in the littlest way.

Go to Adoration – Adoration changes people, period.  What is the one thing lacking in our lives today?  Silence.  Without silence, how can we expect to hear God, how can we expect to see the path God is encouraging us to walk with Him?  Adoration is blissful silent prayer in front of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Before I was Catholic and would visit a Catholic church, I always felt there was something special and sacred about praying in a Catholic church.  My soul could feel Jesus there, my mind just couldn’t recognize Him yet.  Countless times I entered Catholic churches in my travels around the United States and abroad where I lit candles and knelt in prayer.  Many Catholic churches have small chapels where people come to pray nearly all day every day.  It is simply beautiful and humbling to see the number of people that come seeking Jesus in prayer and find him in Adoration.

Adoration changed me.  The silence changed me.  Spending a dedicated hour with Jesus away from my home changed me.  Prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament = power.

Get up 10 minutes early every day – This one is easy.  Set your alarm for 10 minutes early tomorrow morning.  Before you even get out of bed, pray.  Don’t even let your feet hit the floor, pray.  Don’t go to the bathroom, pray.  Not sure where to start with your prayer, just pray one Our Father.  Unfamiliar with that prayer, just pray “Jesus be with me today.”  Over time, as you begin to get used to your new routine, spend some time asking God to guide you through your day, watch over your kids, help you to encounter suffering with hope, and to allow you to give grace to those you encounter.  Simple.  Easy.  Literally start your day with prayer.

Listen to Catholic/Christian radio – One of the main sources to deepen my faith was St. Gabriel Catholic radio.  It is a Catholic Christian talk radio station that offers shows such as “Call to Communion”, “Christ is the Answer”, “The Sunrise Morning Show”, “Encounter” and “Catholic Answers Live”.  Without this station, I would never know the Lord and His Church like I do today.  It is uplifting, encouraging, and faith building.  It allows me to hear the answers to deep questions about the faith and it helps me discern whether or not I am on the path to holiness.

When I’m in the mood for something other than talk radio, I turn on 104.9 The River a Christian contemporary music station and let the Lord speak directly to my soul through music.  The lyrics are inspiring and speak the truth of Jesus Christ.  Many times, I find myself singing the songs throughout my day bringing Jesus back to my mind over and over again.

Find a good Catholic/Christian book/devotional – There are so many wonderful faith filled books!  It has been four years since I have read a secular book.  The knowledge and the depth of my faith have exploded by reading stories of hope founded in Jesus Christ, church history, the history of the bible, beginning theology, stories about the saints, conversion stories and more.  I have a few devotionals, but my favorite is Jesus Calling.  This devotional is a very easy way to spend 5 minutes in prayer, reading scripture and hearing Jesus call your heart home to him.

Check social media AFTER you finish praying – How many times do we finally get to take a break throughout our day and we immediately turn to social media?  The next time you think about opening Facebook or Instagram, put your phone down and pray FIRST.  We all know how depressing and controversial social media can be.  When you pray first, it puts your mind into a restful, peaceful state where you can encounter situations through God’s eyes instead of human eyes, and sometimes after praying you won’t even want to see what the world has to say.

Don’t beat yourself up – Lastly, don’t beat yourself up.  Too many times I have heard parents say how mad they are at themselves for not finding the time to pray.   Don’t get mad, just do a little better every day and if you miss a day, that’s ok, start again tomorrow.

God wants you in relationship with Him.  He wants to know you as a Father knows his child.  He wants you to open your soul to him and share your heart’s struggles, desires, dreams, and passions.  Start that relationship with him today.  Start small.  Choose one item on my list and once you’ve perfected it, choose another one.

Think of the power we could harness if we all made prayer a priority.  Let’s do this!  Let’s change the world together, one faithful prayer warrior at a time.

“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chronicles 16:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Prayer Journey of a 44 Year Old Mom

Over the course of my life, I have had different experiences with my personal prayer life.  When I was a child, we would pray the Our Father and the Guardian Angel Prayer every night before bed followed by God bless mommy, God bless daddy, God bless the dog, the kid next door, my cousins, the butcher, and basically anyone else who popped in my mind.

As I grew older, my relationship with God took on a different meaning.  I started to ask God for things I wanted.  I would ask for things like a good grade on my math test, enough money to buy the Jordache jeans I wanted, that the cute boy sitting next to me in science would slip me a “will you go with me, yes or no?” note, and that my mom would stop making zucchini casserole.  Most of my prayer revolved around me and what I wanted for my life.

Then, when I reached college age and my early twenties, I maintained my “me, me, me” praying, but I also started bargaining.  I started using words like “ok God, if you get me home safe tonight, I’ll…” or “if you don’t let this plane crash (I traveled a lot for work in my early twenties and truth be told, I hated flying), I’ll…” or “if you could just make this boy love me the way I think I love him, I’ll…”.  Obviously, I was still very selfish in my prayer; never praising God, never thanking him, and definitely never examining my own life and recognizing where I was falling short of God’s plan and asking for the help to change.

Fast forward to my thirties and you will find a woman who was just trying to survive.  Marriage, kids and work were taking over my life.  I learned to not be selfish, but instead became selfless to the point that I lost a bit of my identity.  Prayer became an after thought.  I only prayed when I needed something; sanity, help getting through the next day, my infant daughter to stop crying, and to be able to take a shower before my husband returned home from work to find me a mess.  Finding time to pray was difficult, so I just didn’t do it, I just couldn’t bring myself to find the time until finally I would explode and fall to my knees crying and asking God to save me from this life I knew nothing about.

I found out I was pregnant with my third child six years ago today.  It was a total shock.  I was 38 years old and planned to return to work in the fall.  I had my life planned out and this wasn’t part of that plan.  I was devastated.  How could God let this happen?

I became a full time stay-at-home mom in 2007 after being laid off from my job and becoming pregnant with my second child.  Over the course of the next 5 years, we acquired a lot of debt that kept me up worrying at night.  I needed to go back to work.  But God had a different plan.  I would continue to stay home, give birth to my third child, acquire more debt, and become angry and resentful toward my family and God.  At the end of her first year of life, my heart was completely disconnected from prayer.  From the outside, I appeared perfectly involved at church and at home, but inside my heart was dying.

That’s when God broke through.  That’s when God yanked me from my wilderness.  I went through a huge conversion, not only in my faith, but also through the healing of my heart.  This new baby turned out to be an angel sent to bring me back to Him.  She is a radiant light in the darkness of this world.  Full of joy, hope and compassion, she has helped to restore my faith and deepen my prayer life.  She is the gift that only God knew I needed.  He provided this gift at exactly the right time.

Now, in my 40s, prayer is part of who I am.  Prayer is my comfort, my escape, my soul healer, and the time I need with my Father.  It provides peace and direction for my life.  There is rarely a moment throughout my day when God isn’t on my mind.  Now, instead of asking God for things of this world, I pray this prayer everyday.

Heavenly Father,  thank you for everything you have given me; my family, a husband who loves me, wonderful faith filled children, parents to guide me, food on the table, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back.  Thank you for bringing me to your Church where I get to receive you body, blood, soul and divinity to give me strength in this life to continue your work.  Let me be your eyes, your ears, your voice in this world.  Let me see people as you see them.  Let me be your hands and your feet.  Let me always seek to follow you and love you above all things.  Thank you Jesus.  You are my everything.  Thy will, not my will be done.  Amen.

My prayer for you today is that you will find time for God, you will begin a conversation with Him that will last a lifetime, and you will trust in His love to pull you through even the greatest of suffering.

“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” – Romans 12:12

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if?

Since converting to Catholicism, there have been times when I wanted to leave my parish.  The reasons for wanting to leave have included the music at Mass wasn’t great, the curriculum for the Parish School of Religion (PSR) was less than inspiring, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) was boring, and the leadership of our parish was making decisions I didn’t agree with.  

But leaving was impossible, not because there aren’t numerous other churches in the town where I live and not because I wouldn’t love to sleep in on Sunday morning and not because I don’t have friends whose kids would love to welcome my kids to their Sunday school.  I could never leave the Catholic Church because Jesus is there.  Jesus is there, body, blood, soul and divinity.

The source and summit of the Catholic faith is the Eucharist, the body and blood of our Lord, which is consecrated during the sacrifice of the Mass and distributed to Catholics during communion.  Eucharist means “thanksgiving” or to “give thanks” which is exactly what we are called to do as we approach the altar to receive Jesus during communion.

I am convinced the people who are leaving the Catholic Church do not believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, because if they did, how could they leave?  After having opened my heart to the truth found in scripture and tradition, the Eucharist has this magnetic pull on my heart.  It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe.  I literally feel pulled to the church, I feel pulled to sit with Jesus in the sanctuary or in the Mercy Chapel during Adoration.  I need Him.  I need to be there with Him.  

When I first entered the doors of St. Joan of Arc after realizing God was calling me to convert, my heart felt at rest, completely at peace.  The feeling of “I’m home” is the only way to describe it.  I believe this is because Jesus isn’t only present in spirit, He is present, FULLY present, in the Eucharist.  

I have been healed spiritually, emotionally, and physically by the mere presence of the Eucharist and by trusting in the mercy and grace God extends to those who faithfully receive Him.  I have seen men, women and children brought to their knees in His presence.   Even if your mind can’t comprehend that this tiny piece of bread could be Jesus’ body, your soul can.  Your soul knows, and if you open your heart and free your soul to accept the truth, your faith will soar to heights you never thought possible.

The next time you are at Mass and you witness the consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, ask yourself, “What if?”.  What if it really is Jesus?  What if Jesus left this most intimate gift to be with us here in this life?  What if this gift would provide the grace needed to sustain a holy life?  What if this gift could change the world?  I believe it can.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” – John 6:51 – The Bread of Life Discourse, John 6:22-71

“I desire but this one grace, and long to be consumed like a burning candle in His holy Presence every moment of the life that remains to me. For that I would be willing, I think, to suffer all the pains imaginable till judgment day, if only I should not have to leave His sacred presence. My only motive would be to be consumed in honoring Him and to acknowledge that burning love He shows us in this wonderful Sacrament. Here His love holds Him captive till the end of time. It is of this one can truly say, ‘Love triumphs, love enjoys, Love finds in God its joys.'” – St. Margaret Mary

“The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with Him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven, and will help bring about an everlasting peace on earth.” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta

 

Fogive us our Trespasses

How many times in your life have you been wronged by someone? Was the wrong caused by someone you know or by a stranger who said or did something? Can you even count how many times someone’s hurtful words or actions made you angry, sad, or discouraged? I know I can’t.  

I have been wronged, greatly wronged by family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers. For years I thought, “How could that person say that to me?” or “I tried my best, but I guess it wasn’t good enough.” or “Why would a stranger say something that hurtful to someone they don’t even know?”. My first thought was always about ME. They don’t know ME. How dare they say or do that to ME. What gives them the right to treat ME that way.

The one thing I never thought of was them.

What happened to that person over the course of their life that caused them to feel this way? What did someone say or do, or better yet, neglect to say or do to that person that would allow them to treat someone else with disrespect? When you really look into someone’s heart, you become overwhelmed with mercy for them. You realize their heart needs healed.

Over the last few months, I realized I am that stranger, I am that family member, I am that friend, co-worker or acquaintance. I am that person who has inadvertently hurt so many people over the course of my life. I have said and done things that were wrong and walked away having no idea the lasting impact a few words could have. After turning my finger around and pointing it at my heart, I recognize my heart has holes, God sized holes, that need healing, and I can only find healing in Him.

Forgiveness is hard. But forgiveness opens your heart to freedom from the lies, the hatred, and the wasted energy. I ask for your forgiveness today. If there is anything I have ever said or done that has hurt you, please forgive me. Have mercy on me a sinner.

As our Lord Jesus Christ said as he hung on the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”. Who can you forgive today? Who can you ask for forgiveness today?

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” – Matthew 6:12

You are Never Alone in your Suffering

“In everything give thanks.”  This is a hard quote to follow.  So many times in our lives, we don’t feel like giving thanks.  We are hurting in one way or another and we want it to stop.  Some of us, during the course of our suffering will turn away from God.  We will accuse Him of making us suffer or allowing us to suffer.  How could a good God allow ME to go through all of this hurt?  It is in these moments, that we are called to turn our eyes toward the cross and give thanks.

Remember his words “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” Mark 14:36.  God calls us to unite our suffering with his.  Look at the cross and know that he will lead you with his gentle hand through what seems like impossible circumstances.  

As we gaze at the crucifix and see God hanging on the cross, hands and feet pierced by nails, ribs showing through bloodied skin, knees scraped, His side pierced by a lance, His head bleeding from a crown of thorns, and His face so sorrowful, it is a reminder of the supreme sacrifice and suffering Jesus paid for us.

Jesus, the God-man, fully divine and fully human, came to earth to live among us and experience what we as humans experience.  In his short life on earth, He experienced every kind of pain and suffering known to man.

Early in His ministry, the spirit lead Jesus to the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He spent 40 days and 40 nights fasting.  It was at the moment of His breaking point that the devil came to Him.  Knowing how hungry Jesus must be, the devil tempted Him with food.  Imagine the hunger; pains, cramping and rumbling.  I imagine Jesus thinking (as we humans would) “Please just turn one of those rocks into bread for me to eat.  I am so hungry and weak.  I can’t go on anymore.”  Instead His response is “One cannot live on bread alone.”  Next, the devil tempts him with calling down God’s power to save Him, the power to end His suffering.  But again, Jesus does not give in to the devil.  Instead, he responds quoting the ancient scriptures “It is written, you shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”  Lastly, the devil tempts Him with riches and kingdoms.  Jesus could have everything if he would only bow down to the devil.  But Jesus responds by saying “It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”In all three of these temptations, God is laying out a plan for us to respond to suffering.  

We can not live by worldly desires alone.  We must turn to God as He will always provide a way for us.  We should not always expect the Lord to make everything “good” in our lives.  We should not put Him to the test; always wanting happiness and never to suffer.  Many times we ask God “Why me?, Why have you left me here alone?, I thought you were all powerful, why can’t you fix this?”  Our focus should always remain on the goodness of the Lord and the trust that He will guide us even during times of great suffering.  We need to trust that God would never allow suffering unless a greater good could come from it.  Could God stop our suffering?  Yes, but God allows it in order for us to draw closer to Him, to press into Him and realize we can’t “do” this life without Him.

Let’s look at the life of Jesus during his active ministry.  Jesus felt every emotion we have felt; anger, betrayal, hurt, chastisement, sadness, joy, love, empathy, and suffering.  He lost his best friend Lazarus.  He wept upon seeing the suffering Lazarus’ friends and family were feeling after Lazarus’ death.  Yes, Jesus wept.  Jesus wept because He understands your grief at the loss of a loved one.  He knows the gut wrenching pain you are experiencing at the thought of never seeing that person again and He wants to help you through it.

Now, fast forward to the Last Supper.  This is where His suffering greatly intensifies.  Not only is he betrayed by one of the twelve who hands him over to his accusers, but he is also betrayed by his most loyal follower, the one who will be called “The Rock”.  Facing certain death, beating, and scourging, Jesus needed a friend to be there to comfort him, but instead his friend ran away and denied even knowing him.  

Imagine how Jesus must have felt.  Now, imagine when you feel you are alone in your suffering that God is there with you.  Jesus is holding your hand, wiping your tears, and propping you up to take the next step.  He knows exactly how you feel; the sadness, the abandonment, and the loss.  He is there to rescue you.  You only need to trust in Him.

Have you ever faced rejection?  Have you ever felt that you can’t do anything right?  Have you ever felt that the world was against you, that no matter what you did, you could never rise above your current circumstances?  Jesus felt that too!  Imagine being with him before the Sanhedrin.  The lies and accusations being flung at him.  Spit landing on his face.  Someone striking his cheek.  Another person calling him profane names and shoving a stick in his side.  Jesus falling to the ground and being kicked by an angry stranger.  Imagine rolling on the ground, writhing in pain, only to catch a glimpse of your mother weeping and unable to help you.  What must a man feel like experiencing such horrible degrading circumstances?  If you can relate, Jesus can too.  Jesus knows your pain.  He knows your frustration.  He knows the depth of your sorrow.  He knows your soul and he loves you with a love that can calm every pain and quiet every voice.

Have you ever felt physical pain; excruciating pain from some kind of injury or chronic pain from some kind of physical ailment?  Is the pain sometimes so bad you just want to give in, you just want to give up?  Jesus felt this too.  In the garden as he was praying, the pain of knowing what he was about to go through was so great that he began to sweat blood.  Can you imagine knowing that your skin was about to be ripped from your body during the scourging, that your skull would be impaled with thorns that would be beaten into your head, that you would have to carry a 300 pound cross to your death, that your hands and feed would be pierced by a thick rusty nail, that your side would be ripped open by a lance, that your shoulders would become dislocated and your skin would burn from the hot sun as you hung on a cross naked and gasping for air as your lungs began to fill with fluid?  That is pain. That is agony.  Jesus has been where you are.  He knows physical pain of every kind.

Jesus provided salvation for the world through his suffering.  During every step of his passion, he saw YOUR face and he loved you so much that he trusted in God’s will.  He was willing to suffer that much for YOU and for me!  And he would do it all again.  He would do it every day of His life, over and over again for you.  He loves you that much!

Allow Him to come down and meet you where you are.  Let him reach down to the lowliness you are feeling and pull you up to meet him.  He is the only one who can save you.  He would never reject you.  He loves you unconditionally.  Feel his love enter your heart and allow that love to penetrate your soul.  Trust in Him.  Trust in his infinite love for you.  Trust that His love is enough to carry you through any type of suffering.  Jesus, I trust in you!  Jesus, I trust in you!  Jesus, I trust in you!

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.  In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33