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Suffering and Compassion

I have a confession to make. I did not go to church yesterday. I don’t really have an excuse, except that I can’t get out of bed unless I absolutely have to because of my sleep problems. And because I rarely go to church. In all honesty, I’m not a very good Catholic (but still a good person–most of the time). But I do try to go on Christmas, Palm Sunday, and Easter, at least. So for my penance, I thought I would write about what Holy Week means to me.

I really like the reading of the Passion. It’s the place where I can relate the most to Jesus because it is where he is the most human. One of my favorite parts is where Jesus is praying in the garden of Gethsemane. My interpretation of his prayer goes something like this: God, I will do this if I have to, but if there’s any way that I don’t have to, please let me know. To me, this shows that even the Son of God was afraid of the suffering that he was about to face, and I find great comfort in that.

I have said a version of this prayer many times. In the last few years I have started asking God what He wants me to do, which is always a little scary. What if it’s something that will be painful? But I figure if God asks you to do something, it’s best to say yes. So my prayer goes something like this: God, if there’s anything that I’m supposed to be doing, let me know, and I’ll do it. But please give me the courage to do it, too. 

The other part I like is where Jesus cries out on the cross, asking God why He has abandoned him. I find comfort in this, too. One of the things that has always been difficult for me to comprehend is how God can allow people to suffer needlessly. I talked about this in my post on God’s Will. But when I think about the Passion, I don’t know where I even got the idea that we are not supposed to suffer. If anything, the life of Christ shows us that no one is immune to suffering. Even if we’re really, really good, it’s still going to happen.

Lately I’ve been talking about empathy as though it were a curse because it’s overwhelming to have to feel other people’s pain all the time. But I know it’s a gift to be able to give someone the experience of knowing how they feel. For me, reading the Passion is a reminder that Jesus is with us in our suffering, because he has suffered, too. Which is literally what compassion is about.

A few years ago my niece was obsessed with Jesus. Even though it was Christmas, she wanted to know more about how Jesus died on the cross. The next year she drew this picture as a Christmas card. I guess for her, the Passion is also the most memorable part of the life of Jesus.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

6 responses »

  1. Christ's prayer to the Father sounds a lot like my recent prayers in the morning when the apprehension of the approaching workday seems to suffocate me. I think about this prayer often. But where Christ was strong enough to accept his suffering if that was indeed the Father's will, lately I have not been. I've been asking God to spare me the pain instead of leaving the choice in his hands.


  2. If Jesus can pray to God to spare him from suffering, I think we can, too.


  3. Here is one of the most thoughtful and well-written comments by one of my loyal readers:

    Jesus was the lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice, the atonement for the sin of us all.

    God has determined and defined sin, and by His definition and final judgement our eternal fate will be determined and there is nothing we can do to change his Holy, immutable, inerrant, omnipotent and loving mind.

    Being omnipotent “he knew us before he created us in the womb” and he knew when he said we could not possibly “be holy because I am holy” that we could not possibly be sinless. Since “the wages for sin is death”, lake of fire, hell, eternal punishment, etc, He gave us an “out” so we don't have to live our lives in fear of the aforementioned damnation.

    Being immutable He never changes. Although we try to change Him.

    That “out” is through the blood of Jesus which does not eliminate sin but he shed his blood to cover it, once for all “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. But, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall never perish but shall have eternal life”.

    So, Jesus paid the price for your sin, past, present and future, “it is finished” he cried out. But why had God “foresaken” Jesus in those last moments? It was such a dramatic event, the skies darkened, the earth shook, etc. The sin of the entire world was heaped on Jesus as the sacrificial lamb of God and at that moment it was that sin and evil which God would not look upon as Jesus writhed under the weight of it. Jesus felt the separation sin had caused between He and God. After the price was paid, death on the Cross, Jesus gave up his spirit and later even his physical body rose into heaven, back with God.

    So, yes, God turned his back on sin, adandoned as you said, because of the sin Jesus had to die for as atonement so we will not suffer that price as judgement for our sin. God removed atonement by works, sacrifice, etc when Jesus paid the price in full for “all who believe in him”.

    We don't have to judge sin, that's God's job as he says “judge not” and “don't point out the speck in your brothers eye but see the plank in your own”. We certainly have to accept his Word for what sin is, He gets to determine that and judge. Our salvation comes from the Sin covering of Jesus' blood on the cross, through our belief.


  4. Part of the reason I don't go to church is that fact that I don't want to pay for a pastor's pay check. I found out that the donations don't actually go to the church. for most of these guys it's just a business.


  5. I hear you James. I've just been trying to talk to God directly.


  6. Pingback: Suffering and Compassion, Part 2 | Normal in Training

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