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LIVING UNDER THE CROSS


Gerald L. Sittser writes

"Two years ago, I wrote a book about suffering. I have received many letters from people who wanted to tell me their own stories of suffering. I have asked permission from a few to tell their stories to others. One woman, Mary, was in a terrible automobile accident when she was only five years old. Her grandmother, aunt, and only sibling-a younger brother-were killed. She, the only survivor, was trapped in that chamber of death for more than an hour before an emergency crew could get her out. It took her parents, who were touring Europe at the time, three days to get home. By the time they arrived, she had retreated into a cocoon of silence that lasted for nearly two years. Gradually, she emerged from her silence and returned to normal, or so it seemed.


Mary forgot the accident, but the memory of it did not forget her. She was married in her 20s and had a baby. When her little son reached the age of her brother at the time of his death, the memories flooded back. She had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. That experience set her on a journey of pain, healing, and redemption.


She was well on her way to emotional and spiritual health when she wrote to me. She concluded her letter by admitting the obvious: She would never have chosen what had happened to her. 'Let this cup pass from me,' she would have said to God. But she did not have a choice.


She came to realize over time that her suffering had a good effect. It served God’s redemptive purpose. She understood the tension in which Christians must live-- the tension between human weakness and God’s strength, life’s afflictions and God’s redemptive plan, catastrophic suffering (which she surely faced) and spiritual victory. She was living what Paul wrote: "We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies" (2 Cor. 4:8-10, TEV).


Mary embraced suffering so that God’s life could fill her up. It is a perspective she learned by living under the cross.


SOURCE: GERALD L. SITTSER. Living Under the Cross. Discipleship Journal. Issue 110, Mar/Apr 1999.

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