The material from this post was written many years before my son's death in 2015 but the lessons learned and habits formed at that time in my life were so important in enabling me to stay connected to God during my darkest hour.
"Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church" (Colossians 1:24).
Many of us are familiar with the phrase “Offer it up!” but do we really understand what it means? To know this can be life-changing! At least it was for me.
The first eight years of my marriage were full of heartaches but at the time I did not understand the concept of redemptive suffering and didn’t know what to do with the pains of my heart. The waves of emotional pain were so strong that I thought that I would not be able to take care of my children if I allowed myself to feel them so I repressed my emotions. Not good!
One of the first things our Lord did when I began this spiritual journey was to teach me the eternal value of pain when it is offered up to Him as a sacrifice. Suffering in varying degrees is a part of life. We all go through seasons that are more difficult than others whether it is because of physical pain, emotional stress, strained relationships or circumstances that seem to spin out of control with no light at the end of the tunnel.
So what do we do with the sadness, anger or frustration that we experience during these times?
Christ knew that we needed a healthy outlet for the intense emotions we experience when we suffer so he has provided the perfect place for them – his sacred heart! Pain does not have to be pointless ever again.
When a wave of emotion - anger, pain, sadness, fear, etc.- comes over us, that is the exact moment to give it an eternal value by “offering it up”- which means to place that pain in his sacred heart; to unite it with his cross.
Not only will this offering give Jesus the freedom to work in the situation unhindered by our efforts to control it, but he will also take that emotional energy - that wave of emotion - that we struggle to bear patiently and use it as a channel of his grace to help others.It is using our pain as a prayer for others.
Every wave of emotion offered to him as a sacrifice is not only currency in God’s kingdom but is also spiritual warfare. Who do you think loves to remind us of painful experiences and fill our minds and hearts with negative thoughts? Satan.
When we take those very temptations and “offer them up” as a prayer for someone the devil loses so much ground; because in that moment we are taking something negative and allowing God to transform it into something powerfully positive.
This greatly consoles Jesus because our ability to do this is His victory in our life; it is the fruit of his sacrifice on the cross and it brings us into a more intimate union with him.
So offer up everything: hurt feelings, disappointments, rejection, waves of grief, everything - for a specific intention. Maybe you know someone who is going through a difficult time – offer it for them.
Practically speaking: sacrifice beads can be a great help. For each wave of emotion – pull a bead.
As I began to walk closely with our Lord, one by one, he would gently bring the painful memories I had repressed during the first eight years of my marriage to the surface. I would allow myself to feel the sadness and then I would offer that memory up for a specific intention. I began to see so many of these prayers answered in truly miraculous ways.The joy I felt from this far outweighed any pain I had experienced and I began to understand how valuable redemptive suffering is.
Those painful memories from the first eight years of my marriage are now what I consider some of my greatest blessings. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They no longer have the power to stir up any negative feelings because they have been completely transformed by God’s love. Christ received the offering of my broken heart as a precious gift – he didn’t belittle my feelings or tell me to get over it and move on with my life. He used it to draw me closer to him and he valued my offering of suffering so much that he made each one I gave him into a channel of grace for someone.
His desire is to do that for all of us. He wants to be closer to you and He wants you to know how much he values the suffering you endure and how much good he can bring from it. If he hasn’t taken crosses in your life away there is a good chance his desire is to use for a higher purpose - a channel of grace.
Without Him each wave of grief and suffering that comes over us can feel like a tidal wave and that we will drown in it because it is like the Dead Sea - no point to it; no meaning in it - just anguish.
United with Christ, however, these waves of suffering can become "Living Water" for others. They will wash over us and as they come, we offer them to Christ and he sends them out to the world as a channel of his healing grace. "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).