Inevitably, experiences like betrayal, illness, heartbreak and grief change our lives. The question is: for better or worse?
I think suffering is the crossroads of our journey toward God.
If we process our trials with faith, we can stay on track, developing attributes of forgiveness, patience, wisdom and understanding. We can grow spiritually, learning to operate from a deep place of conscious compassion, blessing those around us on our journeys through life.
If we turn away from God, we can become derailed by despair, growing bitter, hopeless and even justifying hurtful behavior to others-unconsciously spreading more pain into the world.
In order to forgive a family member for some pretty serious betrayal, I recently found myself taking up devotion to the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which is a Catholic prayer tradition dating back to the middle ages. I learned about it from the author and speaker Immaculee Ilabagiza, who is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. I figure if she had the grace forgive those who murdered her family and tried to kill her too, God can help me forgive my own considerably smaller problem.
In the Seven Sorrows Rosary Prayer, we meditate on the difficult times in Mother Mary’s life to realize that even though she was favored to bring the Son of God into the world, she suffered enormously to keep her faith throughout Jesus’ life. Her sorrows include the prophecy of Simeon, where she realized the horrific way her Son would die, her flight to Egypt needing to escape King Herod, her loss of Jesus in the temple, her meeting with Jesus on the road to Calvary, her experience standing at the foot of His cross, her moment of receiving His body in her arms, and finally her need to leave His body in the tomb.
The more I meditate on the heartache of Mary, the more God graces me with peace about my own struggles. As I try to live my faith and bring Jesus into the world in a far less perfect way than the Mother of God did, it’s natural for me to struggle in a far less perfect way than she did. It’s comforting to realize she blessed us all with her faith, in spite of the suffering she endured. I pray God can help me bless others too, in spite of my suffering, flaws and mistakes.
Through praying Mary’s sorrows, God has gifted me with the grace of total forgiveness and peace about the situation, which threatened to derail me with pain. Reflecting on the profound grace it took for Mary to endure her trials helps me empathize with those, who have lost their faith through their own times of trial and acted out towards me hurtfully, not having been blessed with the grace she had and perhaps not even realizing it was possible to endure pain so lovingly, thus feeling justified in cruel behavior.
In spite of struggles I’ve gone through to forgive, I am SO grateful to be “on track” with my faith to the extent that I am. The older I get, the more I realize that faith is a gift we can’t take credit for and the more compassion I have for those who get derailed by the trials of life, due to their inability to process suffering in healthy ways with God.
God, please strengthen our relationship with You through the trials of life. It’s hard down here! Please provide an outpouring of Your mercy, when we’re hurting, so we don’t pass that pain to others. Fill us with Your graces of inner peace, love and faith. Help us to admit when we’re wrong, so we can receive Your forgiveness and stay on track with Your plan for our lives, drawing others closer to You as well. Help us to be as merciful toward others as You are toward us. In Jesus name, Amen.
Do you feel like you’re on track with your faith? Have you ever struggled to forgive? How do you manage to keep faith during your hard times?