“Of all arguments against love, none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as ‘Careful! This might lead you to suffering.’ To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground—because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving?” from The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis
It was about 15 years ago when I was going deeper in my faith and was learning something for the first time (or re-learning something I had forgotten?) that suffering could be redemptive… that I could offer up any suffering, however tiny or insignificant, for a person or intention that was on my heart. This accomplished more than helping me move outside of myself, it helped me see that suffering has a purpose and that it is actually often where the deepest love is experienced.
Now, almost ten years into marriage and 8 years into motherhood, I can say that it is still true – love demands sacrifice, even suffering sometimes.
Marriage calls us to give and give and give again, but this giving is modeled after Christ Himself and His love for His Church. It is our vocation, and it is lived out by His grace and mercy. When I was going through labor and delivery of my three children, all three times my husband was by my side calling out the list of prayer intentions we had written in preparation, to offer each contraction for the people in our lives.
To see that this temporary pain could be offered as a prayer – this is redemptive suffering. This is where God meets us and shows us what true love is
One of my favorite hymns when I was growing up that we sang in my high school choir was “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” I loved the part that is really the turning point of the hymn –
“See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”
This meeting of love and sorrow, the power of redemptive suffering, it is a deep and real love that reaches to the depths of who we are.
It calls us to understand that love is more than a feeling. It is a beautiful offering, a gift of self, that may come with suffering but is ultimately united with Love Himself.