I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him. I will be less likely to see my pains as interruptions to my plans and more able to see them as the means for God to make me ready to receive him. I let Christ live near my hurts and distractions.

Henri Nouwen

We also like easy victories: growth without crisis, healing without pains, the resurrection without the cross. No wonder we enjoy watching parades and shouting out to returning heroes, miracle workers, and record breakers. No wonder our communities seem organized to keep suffering at a distance: People are buried in ways that shroud death with euphemism and ornate furnishings. Institutions hide away the mentally ill and criminal offenders in a continuing denial that they belong to the human family. Even our daily customs lead us to cloak our feelings and speak politely through clenched teeth and prevent honest, healing confrontation. Friendships become superficial and temporary.

The way of Jesus looks very different. While Jesus brought great comfort and came with kind words and a healing touch, he did not come to take all our pains away. Jesus entered into Jerusalem in his last days on a donkey, like a clown at a parade. This was his way of reminding us that we fool ourselves when we insist on easy victories. When we think we can succeed in cloaking what ails us and our times in pleasantness. Much that is worthwhile comes only through confrontation.

The way from Palm Sunday to Easter is the patient way, the suffering way. Indeed, our word patience comes from the ancient root patior, “to suffer.” To learn patience is not to rebel against every hardship. For if we insist on continuing to cover our pains with easy “Hosannas,” we run the risk of losing our patience. We are likely to become bitter and cynical or violent and aggressive when the shallowness of the easy way wears through. Instead, Christ invites us to remain in touch with the many sufferings of every day and to taste the beginning of hope and new life right there, where we live amid our hurts and pains and brokenness. By observing his life, his followers discover that when all of the crowd’s “Hosannas” had fallen silent, when disciples and friends had left him, and after Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then it was that the Son of Man rose from death. Then he broke through the chains of death and became Savior. That is the patient way, slowly leading me from the easy triumph to the hard victory.

I am less likely to deny my suffering when I learn how God uses it to mold me and draw me closer to him. I will be less likely to see my pains as interruptions to my plans and more able to see them as the means for God to make me ready to receive him. I let Christ live near my hurts and distractions.

I remember an old priest who one day said to me, “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted; then I realized that the interruptions were my work.” The unpleasant things, the hard moments, the unexpected setbacks carry more potential than we usually realize. For the movement from Palm Sunday to Easter takes us from the easy victory built on small dreams and illusions to the hard victory offered by the God who waits to purify us by his patient, caring hand.

Source: Turn My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times (pp. 9-11).

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