How do you normally react towards emotional pain?
Can you sit side by side with sufferings and look at it in the eye, no matter how long that may last?
Or would your immediate reaction be to reject it and run far away from it?
Maybe you would panic, lose control of your emotions which then grow into a tornado within your mind, tossing around everything it finds in its way?
Or perhaps, you would refuse to let it take up your time and energy, and so you gather yourself together and get on with life?
What do you do with the pain you feel? That yucky, awful, uncomfortable prick that sometimes grow beyond into a thorough pierce through your heart. A bleeding that sees no blood, an ache that painkillers cannot reach.
No one likes to suffer and we would avoid it as best as we can. To do so, we device many defence mechanisms to keep pain out, or at least to temporarily not feel it. Be it to get high on drinks, blast the music, become very task-oriented... anything that would distract us from noticing the pain.
Anything but sitting with the pain and allowing ourselves to feel its total intensity. We break records in our marathon run from our pains but... what are we really running from? If the pain is within us and we are running away from this pain, then isn't it true that we are also running away from our own selves? And if we run away from pain and ourselves, can we possibly grow in our union with Christ, who is most familiar with pain, most acquainted with sufferings? And so too, we are running away from God, and this cannot be life-giving.
Today in one of my lessons, a student stood in front of me for her music test. She comes in leggings everyday because her eczema condition is severe. Looking at the rash covering her arms, her face, surrounding her eyes, my heart melted and ached. It pricked and it pricked, over and over.
Beyond the physical itch and annoyance, I cannot imagine what emotional pain she must be going through each time she looks at herself in the mirror, each time she scratches and tears her skin. Each time she tries a medication with a hope for a cure, only to be left disappointed once again, helpless. I got connected with her sufferings and the growing sparkle in my eyes almost gave me away.
In that moment... I touched the sacred heart of Jesus. My heart merged with His for a while in that divine encounter. Sensus Christi, the sensing of Christ that St Paul speaks: that I may feel with your feelings, with the sentiments of your heart, which basically are love for your Father and love for humanity.
If looking at her sufferings with my imperfect love could move my heart so much, how much more does Jesus' heart bleed when He watches us suffer?
For the first time, I could sense at least a small percentage of what God feels towards His people. I could feel how it pierces His heart just as it did to mine today.
It was an encounter with Jesus whose heart continues to be pierced through by our sins, our sufferings and pains. It was an encounter made possible only because I know suffering. And only by God's abundant graces, have sat side by side in many occasions with my pains, to look at them face to face, and invited the healing presence of God into the very midst of them. That somehow, God continues to invite and encourage me to throw open the gates of my heart to choose love, to choose vulnerability, because invulnerability leads to death.
Sufferings have the ability to form us interiorly in a very special and significant way. It grows us into compassionate beings, increasingly into the image and likeness of our Creator. It grows our hearts into the heart of Christ. We begin to feel with Him, to feel like Him, to love like Him.
Jesus, in His last hours, faced immense sufferings. He could have done many things to escape the sufferings. But He chose none of it, only to hang. To hang there with hands outstretched. This hanging, this total submission to feel the extent of His pain and suffering, physical and most of all, emotional. This hanging which moves His heart to know the hidden pain of Man, and which then allowed Him to go even a step further to forgive and intercede for His own executioners and accusers.
This same hanging we are invited to do in our own pain, our own down moments. Not to run, not to busy ourselves or complain, but to hang. To allow our hearts to be formed in compassion and love, patience and wisdom, discipline and courage. To allow our hearts to grow into the heart of Christ.
Thus, do not fear pain which can only paralyse but cannot kill. We ought to be more fearful of what we do or don't do with our pains because these decisions can either lead to life in Christ or make us emotionally and spiritually hanged.
Will you sit side by side with sufferings and look at it in the eye, no matter how long that may last?