Praying Through Suffering

suffering Jesus on the crossIn his book, The Ignatian Adventure, Kevin O’Brien, SJ, writes:

In the third week of the Exercises, Ignatius invites us to consider how Jesus’ divinity ‘hides itself’ (SE 196). We must not easily explain away the suffering we encounter. Jesus is not merely playacting his way through a passion play. We must take Jesus’ humanity seriously enough to realize just how much he loves us. (227)

In what moment is Jesus’ divinity more hidden than that poignant moment in which he cries out from the Cross in anguish, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In our deepest suffering, we cry out to God. Jesus, in his humanity, understands the place from which these anguished cries arise. Despite his pain though, through his pain, Jesus still teaches us how to pray. When he cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t worry about offending God. He speaks from his heart—simply and sincerely—and, in so doing, demonstrates the way in which we should pray when we are suffering.

Jesus also teaches us that when we call out to God and aren’t immediately rescued, when we don’t hear an immediate response from the clouds, God is still there and God is still trustworthy. After Jesus asked the Father why he had forsaken him, he did not despair. Rather, he trusted the Father and his plans to his last breath as he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

As we embark upon the final days of our Lenten journey, Jesus’ final words present powerful opportunities for reflection. We might ask ourselves:

  • Do I remember that I can share everything with God, even my doubts and fears? Do I remember that I can speak with God simply and sincerely without fear of offending him?
  • Even when I do not observe immediate answers to my prayers, do I trust that God hears my prayers?
  • Unlike the first disciples, we know that the Crucifixion is not the end of the story. We know that after every Good Friday comes an Easter. When I look back upon my own life, can I identify any difficult “Good Friday moments” that have been followed by an “Easter”? What Good Friday situations do I hold in my heart right now for which I am trusting God shall send me an Easter?

Bring your Good Friday moments to Jesus, and leave them at the foot of the Cross. He’s dying to take care of them for you. Feel the weight lift off your shoulders. Easter is coming.

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Rebecca Ruiz
Rebecca Ruiz holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and an M.A. from Tufts University. She has been trained as an Ignatian spiritual director through Fairfield University. Rebecca is on staff at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and previously served for a decade and a half at the Diocese of Arlington in refugee resettlement. She strives, as St. Ignatius taught, to see God in all things and do “all things for the greater glory of God.”


    • Sometimes I feel God has turned away from me when I am suffering but now I see where I isolate myself. Jesus showed us the stages of suffering in the garden and how praying !ifts us out of suffering to experience God’s loving embrace. You reach out and release agony through prayer. When I feel agony and then the presence of a spiritual power I enter the protection of a higher power and turn my agony into peace. Even children can experience this enlightenment. Without suffering there is no glory. I have !looked back on my life and recalled the spiritual
      presence as a Devine intervention. Let go..let God is a part of surrender when you are rooted in Christ. This is my experience and I praise God for blessing me in my time of suffering!

  1. When I was searching for my place within the denominations, I sat, one Sunday, in a bare room with a pastor who pointed to the naked cross and proudly proclaimed, “we are better than the Catholics because we worship a risen savior”. I looked at the cross and thought, “But without the crucifixion, there is no resurrection.” Suffering is a part of life. We can surrender to it and learn nothing but pain and sorrow, or we can embrace and convert it to a path toward resurrection. Many times in any life, we die and are resurrected anew. Such is the way of the cross and the way to salvation.

  2. Thank you, Rebecca, for such an inspiring reflection. I praise God for the many Good Friday times in my life, which were all followed by Resurrection. To live in this world means that we will experience Good Friday/Resurrection events multiple times and will forever praise God for His magnificent plan of Salvation!

  3. Amen to all you wrote Rob. Thank you Rebecca. A.M.D.G.
    I often find the Joyful part hard at present!! Will try harder., with the help of the Holy Spirit!

    • Hi Meg,
      Thank you. Yes, there is no question about it, suffering is hard! In the Gospel accounts, Jesus doesn’t seem to feel a lot of joy as he prays at Gethsemane or enters into His passion. In fact, he seems to dread suffering – just as much as we do! So, it’s quite normal that we don’t feel the joy as we are suffering. The consolation I find in this is that Christ understands suffering and accompanies us in our suffering so we are never alone. And, we can remember, even when we aren’t quite yet feeling it, that the joy of Easter always returns.
      Prayers for a joyous Easter for you!

  4. The ONLY way to bear any suffering is in prayer with JESUS. I could not get through any of it but for HIM and IN HIM. HE experienced THE PASSION and THE CROSS for us. WE can lean on HIM who truly knows and understands………HE IS SUFFERING AND LIFE FOR OUR SALVATION. THANK YOU MY JESUS…AMEN

  5. Thank you so much for this reflection. We do need reminding sometimes that Jesus was fully human and his suffering was only too real. Some images of his crucifixion seem to me to be a sanitized version of the very real torn and bruised flesh of his head and body. In our own imperfect and sometimes painful experience Jesus’ faithfulness unto death – and his glorious resurrection – bring hope and joy.

  6. What a wonderful reminder to lay the crosses we bare at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Surely we can trust that the good Lotd Jesus Christ will take care of them .He never failed us on Good Friday .He never will..

  7. Thank you–we have many “Good Friday’s” and Easter Sunday’s.
    Good to pause at this point in our Lenten journey.

    • Thank you, Jean. Yes, no matter the suffering of Good Friday, we know that the joy of Easter Sunday always follows. What solace this provides!

  8. Rebecca,
    Your reflection about about Praying Through Suffering and the juxtaposing of the last two phrases which Jesus uttered on the cross was a powerful reminder to me that in spite of the physical difficulties I continue to experience (for the first time in my life), and the parental worries that accompany watching your own adult children struggle, that God in his infinite mercy and love remain – steadfast. The gift and the challenge for me is to remain confident (and joyful) in KNOWING the Creator is present always and our challenge is to find that Grace is – always present. Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift of reflection.

    • Rob,
      Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, God remains steadfast – even when we forget it. I find such consolation in knowing that Jesus understands pain so when we have pain, or when we worry about others’ pain (or decisions that might lead to pain), He understands it. He isn’t afraid and doesn’t hesitate to “stand in the muck” right there with us. Prayers for a joyful Easter for you.


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