Standing at the Foot of the Cross

A few years ago, I wrote about Mary’s experience of Good Friday in The Spirit of Mary. We often think of Mary as she was depicted in the beautiful sculpture, The Pieta, sitting on the ground cradling her Son’s beaten, bruised, and broken human body. But, pondering Scripture, I was particularly struck by John’s depiction of the most beautiful and awful scene of our Savior’s death. Mary was standing by the cross along with other women and John. (John 19:25). She stands with her people, gaining strength from Her Son. Her silent witness, her presence in the face of unspeakable horror, is an example to each of us in how to face whatever suffering we carry today.

If you need a few words to figure out how to face the day- look to Mary’s example in this excerpt:

Mary reveals how to face suffering with strength.

Mary’s life was not pain free. Scripture reveals Mary suffered: the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus, possibly living alone during Jesus’ ministry, witnessing His crucifixion, waiting for the resurrection. Despite the fact that she lived without sin and was full of God’s grace, Mary experienced times of suffering. We know that God loved Mary and had no reason to punish her. It is important for us to truly acknowledge and accept the concept that suffering is not a punishment from God, despite what our feelings may be telling us. Mary helps us to understand that suffering is not a result of God turning His back on us because of who we are. In our suffering, we can find God turning His face toward us if we look to Him.

Each time Mary was in need, she saw that God put people in her path who supported and helped her through her struggles.

Cathedral Museum, Santiago de Compostela

Cathedral Museum, Santiago de Compostela

The depth of God’s love for us is not reflected in the circumstances in which we find ourselves but in the people that He sends to sit beside us while we cry.

Are we open to receiving God’s help as Mary did? Are we open to being His listening ear to someone in need?

Despite appearances, no one on this planet is immune from pain. If Mary and Jesus suffered, we ought to accept that we all will suffer as well. Running from the pain does not solve the problem, it only prolongs the resolution. Once acknowledged though, we eventually understand what suffering is and come to see how we are called by God to respond to our own suffering and that experienced by others.

In accepting pain, we can allow God to transform something seemingly meaningless into something that helps others.

Where do we get the strength not to turn our backs on our own pain and the pain of those around us who are suffering?  

When it is easier to keep our eyes down at the grocery store rather than talk to our friend who is going through a divorce.

Or roll up our windows rather than speak to the friend whose child is just back from their second stay in the hospital.

When the pit in your stomach forms when you see a name flash on your phone and you know it is more bad news.

When it is easier not to tell your personal story of pain.

How do we maintain the strength to stand at the foot of our personal crosses?

Our strength comes from the same source as Mary’s strength— Jesus and the water and blood that flowed from His side.

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Suffering allowed our salvation.

If God used the suffering of Christ on the cross to redeem the world, He can transform your suffering into something that connects you with others. He can help you find meaning in what otherwise appears useless, meaningless, and a waste of time. With God, all things are possible (cf Luke 1:37). Allow Him to show you how He can redeem your suffering and help you to love others more fully because of --not in spite of --your suffering.

Mary was not alone as she stood at the foot of Her Son’s cross. She was surrounded by people who loved her despite the fact that the One she loved most was going away for a time.

Many things work against us to isolate us from others and thus create a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that things will never get better or easier. Allow the Holy Spirit to move and reveal Himself to you and give you the strength to face your suffering and to remain present in the suffering of another.

Who do you know who is suffering today, can you reach out with a text, a call, a card?

If you are suffering, who can you reach out to for support?