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A Lesson in Suffering from the Sacred Heart

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Meg Hunter-Kilmer - published on 05/22/16

God doesn't ask us to understand, he just asks us to love and trust

When my spirit is faint within me, you know my path.-Psalm 142:4

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. -Romans 8:16-18

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to spend the night at the Basilica of Sacré Coeur in Paris. After checking in with the Benedictine nun at the desk, I was shepherded to a room where another nun was giving a beautiful conference on prayer and sin, replete with scriptural references. Then 10 pm Mass with 200 people, after which everybody without a special red ticket was escorted out, leaving just a few of us in a dimly lit Church where the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed perpetually since 1885—world wars and all. For a few quiet moments, I waited with him, then headed into the guest house to sleep.

I set my alarm for a 3 am holy hour and made my way through the building to a stunning church that I couldn’t see. I’d been planning to meditate on today’s verses in the light of the beautiful mosaic of the Sacred Heart that I’d stared at earlier but the lights were out on everything but Jesus. It was just a weary pilgrim and her unwearied Lord.

There’s a beautiful line in the Liturgy of the Hours that strikes me every week: Oh Lord our God, unwearied is your love for us.

It sends a thrill through this sinner’s heart when I remember that his love is unwearied. No matter what I do or how far I run, he is still longing to love me.

His love is unwearied. So is his providence. His wisdom is unwearied, even when I can’t see what he’s doing. His power is unwearied, despite his apparent failure to act. Our God is always working, always loving, always planning.

It’s something I need to remind myself when I’m weary, which I often seem to be. I might be three trains into a four-train day, trying desperately to connect to wifi to figure out which train I take next and to console a suffering friend an ocean away, overwhelmed by the need to dash across town to make Mass, but he is unwearied. He knows my path. And he’s adopted me as his daughter. Which means that I am in his hands.

As I sat there before a God who’s been waiting for me for 130 years—for 2000 years—for eternity—it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. But he is unwearied. As he hung on the cross, he wasn’t overcome but endured for the sake of the joy that lay before him. (Hebrews 12:2) And what he offers us now isn’t just an unwearied love for today but a promise of eternity.

I don’t understand suffering. I know that it has value because Christ’s did. I know that God can use it for good and that it can refine us. I know that he’s asking me to rejoice in suffering, to offer it to the Father just as he did. Romans tells us that we suffer so that we may be glorified and I believe it. I get it all intellectually, but there’s something I’m still missing.

And for now, that’s okay. God doesn’t ask us to understand suffering. He doesn’t actually ask us to understand anything. He just asks us to love and to trust. He knows that sometimes the best response to suffering is just to sigh, “I don’t get it.” As long as we remember who holds us in our pain.

So in the midst of this wearying week on a wearying trip in a wearying life, I’m strengthened by the knowledge that my God neither slumbers nor sleeps. (Psalm 121:4) When I can’t see a way out, he can. When I feel unworthy of love, he’s calling me home. This Father of mine is waiting up for me to set things right. I might be overcome, but he never is. Praise God for his unwearied love and his faithfulness whatever our circumstances.

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