Entering the Suffering
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Walnut Creek, CA, USA
And, always remember, the way of suffering love that leads to the cross also leads to resurrection and everlasting life in Christ’s eternal community of oneness and peace. Trust in this promise.” -Doctrine and Covenants 165:6c
Most of the time, I avoid pain at all costs. I take Tylenol at the first sign of a headache. I avoid the risks that could cause disruption. In intense or overwhelming moments, it is sometimes easier to become emotionally numb than to sustain the feeling. As much as I can control my way around suffering, I will try.
We have spent the season of Lent practicing restraint in the desert, stripping ourselves of unnecessary baggage, assessing our idols and illusions. Holy Week is the culminating moment of this wilderness season of the spiritual life. Yet, Holy Week does not offer an invitation to ease the pain, but to enter it. In her book, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Margaret Wheatley reminds us, “At this time when suffering and anxiety continue to increase, when there is always reason to weep for some unbearable tragedy inflicted by one human on another, I try to remember to keep my heart open” (p. 59).
We are invited to enter the heart of suffering in ourselves and others and pray our own agonizing Gethsemane prayers: Where are you, God? and Why God? and How could this happen? Can’t it be another way? What possible spiritual wisdom could reside in the annual journey into this uncomfortable place? What might happen if I remember to keep my heart open amid my own suffering and the suffering of others?
We do not seek out suffering, but it happens. There is no neat theological explanation for the Good Friday moments of life that satisfies our deepest questions. And yet, we can see how it is often through enduring what we would never choose that we find ourselves transformed into who we really are. In our aching Gethsemane prayers, we dare to utter what is most real in us. There is no time for fancy wording or even right theology. What was once abstract becomes sharp immediacy.
And it is here, in this journey to the cross, right in the middle of what we’ve tried to avoid, that we discover the presence of the One who is truly in all things-even in the places we’d rather not be. This is the promise we dare to hold.
God, may my deep hope align with your deep vision. Release in me anything that keeps me from freely following your Spirit. Amen.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Breathe deeply as you enter a time of silence. Become gently attentive to what may be restricting you from faithfully responding to the divine invitation in your life. Are there priorities, attachments, tasks, or motivations competing for your response? What does freedom for God look or feel like in you this day?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.