Karl Knaths. Water Valley. Smithsonian Museum of American History
Hardly a day passes, Lord, that I am not overwhelmed and drawn under by the pain of someone I love. I too often allow the fear to take me to the dark places in my mind.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”1
Ah…so pain is a given, and You are always with me in it.
A deeply centered spiritual life keeps me aware that my true dwelling place is not in this world of anxiety and hopelessness, but in my sacred center, that place of splendor where You reside. It is only in this place that I am able to hear Your voice reminding me that in You there is nothing but love and that all will be well. It is to this first love that I have to keep returning. Prayer is the discipline that enables me to return and begin to hold peacefully the many painful issues that fill my life and the lives of my loved ones. You in me expands my heart’s capacity to hold the burden without being dragged under by it.
This returning is difficult. It is a great struggle. But when I am faithful in coming to prayer again and again, I return to hope. Nothing is wasted. Your plan is perfect even though my finite eyes don’t see it yet. I sit with the pain and sense the great mystery of my tears flowing out through creation joining the flood of the sacred tears of Your people who too, hope in You. My fear transforms into sorrowful acceptance, and I wait in trust for the joy that must surely come. Today and every day I will fix my eyes on You, the perfecter of my faith, who, for the joy set before You, endured the cross, despising its shame. 2
You with me in the deep waters. You send me Your divine breath and hold me up with Your love. You call me to manifest the victory over fear in my common, ordinary, everyday life.
The meaning of peaceful sainthood is being willing to stand at the fearful edge, under the cross, in the cross, holding my pain and the pain of those I love, keeping watch for the Light. This is fertile suffering.
I need say no more just now, dear Jesus, for such a love that knows another’s pain is their nourishment, hope, and encouragement, and this I long to be through You who gives me strength.
So often when we are hurting, we run from one thing to the next, frantically looking for a quick fix that will ease our searing pain and restore things to the way they used to be. However, God is not seeking restoration but transformation. The more we submit to and participate in the mystery of this purifying work, the more we begin to experience a sense that everything, even our darkest pain, is held in Divine Love.
Our Lord reaches out from the cross to embrace us with both arms. One is the arm of sorrow, suffering, and pain, and the other is the arm of peace, love, and joy. We cannot have one without the other. The cross is the gateway to oneness with Infinity Itself. Yet we do not pass right through. We must stop and abide in the Life that we find there—the passion, the compassion of the Crucified. As we welcome our pain and unmet longings with hope, we open to the Divine embrace. We are, at last, resting in God. This is the hope that the Apostle Paul knew when he exhorted us to rejoice and give thanks in all things.