If I look back on my life and even assess the current state of my life, I can not say that it is without suffering. Better yet, the more I become involved in following Christ and living out the Gospels the more heated my life becomes. I can remember a woman from Church, telling me at one time, that I was doing something wrong to experience such suffering. She compared my troubles to her easy sailing and many blessings and told me it was, because she was doing things right and I was doing them wrong. Well…… I’ve learned that she was far from the truth and I’m glad I didn’t take her seriously. The truth is….the closer you get to following Christ the more of the cross you experience. When you’re doing right, you feel the heat like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. They refused to follow the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar II to worship the false God’s. They were buried in the fiery furnace to suffer for their choice and the miracle of Jesus coming into the furnace to protect them scared the King to turn up the heat to max. The three prevailed and when it was over, not only did they walk out unharmed, but they did not even smell of smoke. The Christian way is not an easy road and being a Franciscan is harder still. St. Francis was hard pressed at being a true disciple. The cross and humility are where he felt connected. At his conversion he looked to the Gospels for direction and found:
Rising from prayer in a spirit of humility and with a contrite heart. (Francis) prepared himself with the sign of the holy cross. He took the book from the altar, and opened it with reverence and fear…..The first passage that met his eye was the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that tells of the suffering he was to endure……. He opened the book a second and a third time. Every time he found either the same text or one that was similar. This man filled with the spirit of God then understood that he would have to enter into the kingdom of God through many trials, difficulties and struggles. Reading: Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Francis (1C93)
After reading this short synopsis of St. Francis life, how can I/we as Franciscan or Christian followers expect anything less? If we too, mirror Christ’s life we should expect the same as St. Francis “Suffering” and “relational conflict”. Christ lived on the edge and he challenged everyone. His actions took people outside of their comfort zones. When Jesus said, Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood and people left him thinking he was speaking of cannibalism, crisis issued, and Peter when asked if he too, wanted to leave responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.” Which meant, I don’t understand, but I know it is better with you than without you. Isn’t that the way of faith? I don’t understand, but I understand less without you therefore, I will trust in you and endure the suffering. To truly live the Gospel you will feel the heat. I can recall many times in my life, right before I was going to be a part of something that would impact someone’s life in a powerful way, I would feel intense heat from opposition and conflict. The more heat I felt, the more powerful I knew the bible study, healing mass, retreat, whatever it was I was a part of, was going to change someone’s life for the better. This reality should not deter you from following Christ, on the contrary, it should motivate you for the great reward awaiting you in the end.
St. Francis and St. Paul found joy in their sufferings. St. Paul wrote most of the New Testament writings in prison sitting in sewage abandoned by most of his friends. “Doing God’s will and thus experiencing suffering is still the highest form of faith, and the most glorious Christian achievement”. The most comforting of David’s psalms were squeezed from his life by suffering, and if Paul had not been given “a thorn in the flesh”, we would have missed much of the heartbeat of tenderness that resonates through so many of his letters.(L.B.Cowman)
Bad things happen to good people, just look at the cross and what happened to Jesus, but remember ….we are resurrected Christians. The end far outweighs the turbulence. Don’t get lost in pride of humiliation from the crucifixion, because we don’t understand it fully. Rejoice in the knowledge that we wear the crown of kingship. Endure with the passion and knowledge that God saves. We are free! free to experience life to the fullest, working our way to the cross of suffering that frees us and those we drag with us (hopefully not kicking and screaming) to repentance and love.
Then find strength in 1Peter 5:9 Refuse to follow the devil. Stand strong in your faith. You know that your brothers and sisters all over the world are having the same sufferings that you have.
Encouragement by Marc Chernoff ~ Life is like a mirror; we get the best results when we smile. So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.
Inspiration in Pope Francis ~ “Lord, grant that I might be consistent! Lord, grant that I may never cause scandal, that I might be a person who thinks like a Christian, who feels like a Christian, who acts like a Christian.”
You must remember, that the more trials you endure, the more you know you are on the right track. What about you?
TABLE TALK: please comment below about your suffering and how you endure through your trials and tribulations that may help others.