by Isabelle Fuentes
How could there be fruits waiting to be harvested during our season of suffering? I would ask.
Life’s unexpected perils often inflict the experience of loneliness on our raw humanity. In times of suffering, we often feel like we have been stripped bare. Temptation creeps into our hearts, inviting us to linger in despair or to desperately try to control our situation. Seasons like this can be described as ones that are full of noise and a sense of paralysis that leaves us feeling like we are unable to access the Father’s goodness.
We can’t see the bigger picture.
We are suspended in fear, and feel forced to wait. It can makes us feel like we are in a stuffy room, with the windows shut tight. The more we sit in this room, the more it is hard to breathe; what with the lack of proper ventilation. We need fresh air to truly breathe. Letting fresh air into the room does not require a dramatic change of our circumstances. Rather, in the face of powerlessness, we do not attempt to cope through our own strength, but rather, courageously ask for Jesus’ grace to sustain us. Like fresh air that fills the stuffy room and makes it easier to breathe, faith in Jesus transforms the seemingly unbearable.
Scripture tells us that there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. Fear is this context, can often be tied to fear of punishment. However, the Lord does not punish. And since we have been created in perfect love, there is no need to fear. We cannot recover from suffering by fearfully trying to wrest control over our circumstances and carry our own burdens. Instead, we need the greater voice of love to lead us out of that stuffy room and back into the Father’s house.
The tedious task we seem to face is in taking courage enough to open the door of our hearts. Indeed, we can all acknowledge that suffering is agonising and yet, we would rather barricade ourselves inside that stuffy room, rather than allow Jesus in. This happens when we discredit our painful experiences, compare our pain with that of others, and grasp onto our façades of strength rather than reaching out to Jesus for help. We hold onto pent-up shame and guilt. These tendencies become unnecessary weights that only burden our journey of suffering even more.
That it is through Him, in Him, within Him, He is for us.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
The Jews of Nazareth were in that same stuffy and dark home, dismissing the favour of Mary and Joseph as they were ushering the New Messiah, Jesus. He came to establish His kingdom, that it was also found in the fullness of the Holy Spirit who breathes in mind, heart, and body. Like the ventilated room, Jesus floods the manger with new life for the poor shepherds and the three kings who visited Him. How may we usher this new Messiah into our broken houses?
Our suffering cannot be undermined as each of our struggles is as unique and distinct as we are. Jesus invites us to take on His yoke so that our burdens may be lightened. This waiting produces even more purpose to produce the fruits of patient endurance for God’s graces, pointing us back to encounter the vulnerable baby Jesus in the dirty manger. It is in these sufferings; we rediscover God who willingly took on flesh and bore our broken humanity.
Now we see that we were never alone; that suffering is a redemptive invitation when we acknowledge that Jesus is for us.
This is where courageous faith and trust in Jesus leads us to take on our crosses.
Suffering is no longer faced alone, but intimately shared with people carrying the same burdens. We can be at peace with our suffering and encourage our brothers and sisters to see Jesus at the centre of our brokenness, Jesus who is carrying us home. We reap the sweet fruits of Hope that raises us from the shadows of despair to the free child of God even in future battles.
What has guided me in this process of letting Jesus in was
- Surrender my anxiety and faults. It is easy to mistake our doubts and shame for our identity. Retreat yourself in the sanctifier who allows us to slowly trust in Him. Ask and you will receive.
- Share your struggles with others. It is a temptation to think that we can escape from the grasp of suffering by ourselves. By bearing one another, we can let tenderness and compassionate love into our grief. Evil has no power over a Love that casts out fear.
This is the journey from anguish to freedom.
Like the room with opened windows ushers fresh air into our grief and discouragement, we discover Jesus’ intimate Love through the embrace of community.
Even if our circumstances are fixed, we now have a heart oriented to courageously take up our crosses instead of resorting to self-reliance. We can now pass on this powerful Hope to those who are paralysed by their own suffering, and urge them to let love in. For only Jesus can revive our faith, fully heal our brokenness, and make us whole!
No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to endure, but through the temptation, He will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
In suffering, it is important to cling onto the truth; he does not send you where grace cannot sustain you. This upheaval is only the beginning of renewal of Hope, Joy and Peace; to be attuned to this new redemptive way of living out our struggles because He is already for us.