Yesterday evening, I was musing on how I had come to love and seek out Solitude and Silence when once I would have run from them. The reason that I have come to love them is because I have found that they help me so much in coming to really know and love God and myself. As I was reflecting on this yesterday, a third “S” appeared in my mind – their sister, Suffering. This is a sister I have yet to befriend. I am still frightened by her and try to avoid her as much as I can unless she is already right before me. I am still very far from being able to embrace and welcome her.
Yet a moment of enlightenment came upon me, like the first glimpse of light at the crack of dawn. The thought came to me – just as I have come to love, cherish and desire Silence and Solitude because of the spiritual bounty they bring me, might I not one day come to seek Sister Suffering when I realise how powerfully she can bring me into deeper union with Christ? I am convinced that this is why the saints “love suffering.” They don’t love her for her own sake, but because they have found her to be a most powerful gateway to union with their beloved God. Thus, rather than flee from suffering, they run to her because they know that where she is, our Crucified Christ also is.
The desert is a necessary place for purification and encounter with God. But the desert is not only a place of solitude and silence; it is also a place of danger and suffering. In the desert we are exposed to the elements and completely vulnerable – we are totally dependent on the providence of God. Ah, now I understand why in my foray into the desert I have lingered close to the borders of civilisation. For while I am undeniably drawn by my growing love for Silence and Solitude, I am still frightened by Suffering. And if I really desire to walk unafraid into the desert where heavenly treasures await, I must first befriend Sister Suffering.
When I have come to love Sister Suffering, I would have learned to love the unloveable, and the gate will be thrown wide open for me to love so many other things that could propel me deeper into Jesus Christ – poverty, humiliation, rejection, persecution, tension, abandonment, death! Ah for when the day comes that I lose my fear of these, would I not be finally free to follow Jesus wherever he goes? I will no longer shrink from what is distasteful to me but rejoice to find Christ smiling invitingly at me to join him wherever there is suffering.
Oh I feel like I am lightyears away from that beautiful freedom of the saints! Unhappy, fear-ridden, sinful little creature that I am! And yet the most wonderful and beautiful thing is that God does not ask me to leap across this impossible chasm to Him! He comes to me where I am and he assures me that if I learn to let him love me day by day, the time will come when I will be brave enough to let him carry me to where I do not want to go. I just need to desire to be in union with him – that’s all the permission he needs to do the impossible in me. How happy I am in my unhappy state because of Him!
Do whatever you wish to do, Lord, to help me become more open to your love. For I know that when your love fills my heart, I will become a channel of your love for all the world!