Suffering. Still with me? That word is enough to send us running in the opposite direction, even if we’re not runners! But suffering is a part of life so let’s talk about it today in our Lent Devotional for Women.
I am going to consider suffering from a Catholic point of view, but I believe, more importantly, a momma point of view. (Please remember, I am not a theologian, I am a Catholic Christian momma who tries to love and serve Jesus with my whole self.)
Lent Devotional for Women
I’m a storyteller so let’s begin with a “Once upon a time…” I remember one time when I was about, Oh, what felt like 43 months pregnant with my third baby. My sweet second baby, only about 20 months old at the time, had a stomach bug with fever. My poor, baby, girl was miserable!
She laid down on the couch and did not want to move. Around bedtime, I gently asked if she wanted to move and she weakly but flatly refused. Now, being approximately 43 months pregnant, there was no way I could squeeze on that couch with her!
My sick, baby girl wanted me close, just not “squishing her on the couch with my ginormous belly” close. So I made a pallet on the floor right next to the couch and slept there. I say slept, but she was up off and on through the night so I didn’t get much sleep; I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. And even if she would have slept all night long…remember I was about 43 months pregnant so I’m not sure how much sleep I would have gotten anyway.
And that’s what we do as mommas right? And as wives and friends, we stay near those suffering. We are the rock pushers and the arm holders. Even if…Even if they have no idea that we are up late into the night, on our knees, on our face, walking the floor, praying, pleading, and interceding for them.
Have you ever had the thought, “I wonder if I would have stayed near our Lord when He was in the garden or on the cross?” I’ve had enough “Peter” moments in my life to know, chances are not good. Ahem…
The benefit of staying close by, we pray close by. Not that God doesn’t honor time and space. But close by prayer, right up in your business prayer…well, there’s something to be said for it.
It’s in those intimate moments–near or far–that we forget our discomfort, our needs, and our wants and we offer everything we have for the suffering soul we are staying close to. We do it without complaint (sometimes? Hopefully?), fanfare, regard for our own comfort, and in no hopes of a reward or payback.
We suffer alongside the suffering out of sheer love for them, not ourselves.
That example and explanation above of staying near my suffering baby girl is the easiest way I know how to explain my view on the Catholic practice of “Offering it up.”
We take our suffering and we offer it in union with theirs. Our thoughts, prayers, and even physical discomfort are focused on staying close to the suffering. We are offering encouragement, support, and prayers. Sometimes this looks physical, spiritual, or both.
And sometimes, we offer our own suffering to Jesus. We unite our sufferings to His. He doesn’t need it, He doesn’t ask for it, and it does nothing for Him. But this a chance for us to come alongside Him, out of complete and total love, to be in a spiritual sense, near Him when He suffered His final agony as the God-Man here on earth.
Have you ever said to a child, spouse, or friend, “I wish I could take this suffering from you”? Or, “If I could, I would suffer alongside you.” That’s what we do with Jesus friends.
I was not at the foot of the cross when Jesus was going through His final agony. I could not physically stay near to offer myself and any discomfort I experienced to Him at that moment. But God is eternal and time is irrelevant.
I can take my sufferings today, in this space and time, and offer them up with His sufferings. Make sense?
When my little girl was sick and lying on the couch, I could lie beside her and offer all I had spiritually and physically to her at that moment. I couldn’t do that for Jesus when He was on the cross, I wasn’t alive then. But I can do it now, with others, as an offering to Him.
I have tried to explain this to the best of my understanding. I am not a theologian, just a simple momma. And as with all things God, there is and always will be a sense of mystery, parts that will only make sense in the spiritual realm no matter how hard we try to explain or understand them here and now on Earth.
And for a “How to Offer Things Up Primer” on how this works, when you are suffering, from a headache to a heartache, you simply turn to Jesus on the cross in His greatest moment of suffering on earth, and you say, “Jesus, I offer this for love of you.”
You are now in essence, staying close to our Lord in His Passion without any regard for yourself. You have given up the desire to complain and seek consolation because rather than focusing on your own suffering you are turning all that attention to staying near our Lord in His.
P.S. This is one of my favorite Lent Devotional reflections.