If you think about Jesus Christ’s suffering when you’re suffering, does it comfort you or sinks you even more? For a lot of time in my recovery, it used to be the latter. I see all the Christian people in recovery saying how much it helped them to contemplate Jesus suffering and in the Cross to feel relieved and keep going with Him. But I didn’t understand it. For me, it was triggering, like I could not vent about my suffering because, if He’s gone through so much, how could I not deserve it? And I felt selfish for wanting this torment to go away, instead of desiring it to be like Jesus.
The road to understanding the Passion
When I was deep into my eating disorder, thinking about the Passion didn’t disturb me, it was just the confirmation that I was doing what I had to do: sacrifice and mortification. Therefore, in recovery, it was exactly the opposite: I used to feel guilty for having abandoned that path, for having abandoned Jesus. Even when I realized that recovery was bringing me much more suffering than any of the things I did because of anorexia, it didn’t get better, because then I imagined I was going to have to spend my whole life with this extremely high degree of pain that was tearing me down in order to satisfy God.
I honestly believe that if you’re in a similar position the best thing is to not try to force it and wait some time before meditating about these topics. Don’t feel guilty or worse as a Christian for ignoring something as central as the Passion. If it’s an entrance door for the devil into your mind, Jesus will understand if you close it. As time goes by, you’ll be stronger, you’ll have more clarity, and you’ll be able to delve into this mystery that, when seen through the right eyes, is beautiful. It’s love. It’s hope. It’s mercy.
That’s what I’ve been able to see during the latest Spiritual Exercises I’ve gone to, unlike those I went to last year, when I clearly wasn’t ready. And I want to share it with you so you can understand the true meaning of the Passion and then be able to turn fearlessly to Christ suffering in order to keep going in the way of recovery. I hope it helps you. If it’s triggering for you, don’t worry and stop reading.
Pain and joy
Meditating about Christ’s Passion used to lead me to restrict massively. Even now, I can’t help but have in some chamber of my mind the thought that. since I can’t do that anymore, I should at least be suffering all the time, I should feel gutted if I experience joy. But that’s wrong. To start with, Jesus was happy in His life. Remember that only 5 out of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary are sorrowful.
In addition, I rather have to praise His mercy and infinite love, knowing that He has not only made such an immense sacrifice for me, but He doesn’t even ask me to give that back to Him. Neither does He say: “ok, I know you aren’t going to achieve the same level, but get as close as you can”. No. What’s done, it’s done, and He loves me and doesn’t want me to go through the same. Neither would you want the person you love most to go through the same suffering as you.
Sorrow for sins
What He does want me to feel hurt for is sin, at least as much as it hurts me to contemplate the Passion through images, texts or movies. Because that’s just what happens when we sin. He wants me to look at His Passion and acknowledge, that’s mine! And, when I acknowledge that, He acknowledges that I’m His daughter and says: “And you’re mine”, as Fr. Mike Schmitz explains in a beautiful and poignant podcast entitled Sign Your Name. That is, when you are able to sign your name to what you did, the wound you inflicted to Jesus, He also calls you by your name, salvation becomes personal.
And I sign my name to my anorexia, with all the sins against my body but also all the lies and all the pain caused to my loved ones, especially my mother. But not only that. I sign my name to my guilty silences, to being afraid of what others will think. To my fits of rage. To my disdainful judgments of others. To my lack of trust and the horrible things I’ve thought about God Himself, to my heart of stone. I also sign my name to my falls in recovery, to keep, even when I already know it was wrong, doing things that were bad for my body out of fear, to flirt with the thoughts I know came from the evil.
That’s all mine. I sign my name to it. All those things hurt Christ in His Passion. But I’m His and He’s resurrected. Everything has been cancelled. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, and so did love. God is greater than all our sins. I’m going to now address you directly, although actually everything I say goes for you: you’re His.
Jesus suffers with you
Jesus hasn’t suffered so that, when you tell Him about your sufferings, He can say, “Oh really? That’s so silly, how do you dare to tell that to Me? I know what real suffering is!”. He doesn’t disregard your sufferings. Just the opposite. He’s able to bring back all that part of His suffering that was especially because of yours.
I say suffering in general, yes, and not only sin. Because He suffered for your suffering, since all suffering is consequence of sin. Either of original sin (natural disasters, illnesses, death of loved ones…), of others’ sins that hurt you, or of your own sin that’s harmful to you. And He carried all those kinds of sins. And He can isolate them when you turn to Him with your suffering, so He can be with you commiserating with you, with in its etymology means literally to suffer with you, to suffer together.
Sharing the feelings of the Heart of Jesus
When we offer sincerely our condolences to someone we love, we’d ask to experience their pain so we could share it with them. We don’t want the tragic event in itself, specifically, that we have to go through the same thing that has happened to them, of course not. But we’d want the effect, the suffering, the pain, the mourning, the tears, so we could be one with them and accompany them. The same applies with Jesus Christ. We don’t say we want to go through His Passion, to be scourged and crucified, but we want to be able to experience His desolation and grief so we can accompany Him with a deeper love.
Simply ask Jesus to let you share His pain with Him, out of love. You don’t have to be like Peter, drawing your sword, doing things by yourself believing they’re for the Lord when He actually hasn’t asked you to do that. Rather, be like John, and stay leaning back against His Heart, that way you’ll really be a soul of reparation.
The devil hates these kind of love gestures towards Jesus. That’s why he twists ours and tries to use them to take us to his realm, tangling them up to channel them into the descending way of evil, to make you get into the vicious cycle of self harm in its multiple shapes.
Jesus dies for you because He loves you, and wants to rescue you so He can be with you for all eternity. Respond to love with love. Love what He loves, which is what He’s created in you and for you. Not with hate, destroying it. The contempt of self refers of those things that are exclusively ours, where He hasn’t taken part: our sins.
Therefore, in the midst of your anguish and suffering, knock to the Heart of Jesus with all your trust and ask Him to let you lean back on Him. He isn’t going to throw anything in your face. He isn’t going to tell you to go and suffer more to punish you. The Passion turns into com-passion. Let you be loved and comforted.