Suffering: Week 2
Monday, October 22, 2018
The “cross,” rightly understood, always reveals various kinds of resurrection. It’s as if God were holding up the crucifixion as a cosmic object lesson, saying: “I know this is what you’re experiencing. Don’t run from it. Learn from it, as I did. Hang there for a while, as I did. It will be your teacher. Rather than losing life, you will be gaining a larger life. It is the way through.”
The mystery of the cross has the power to teach us that our suffering is not our own and my life is not about “me”; instead, we are actually living inside of a larger force field of life and death. One moves from “me” to “us” inside of this field of deep inner experience. This is the gateway to compassion, and thus redemption. When I can see and accept my suffering as a common participation with Jesus and all humanity, I am somehow “saved” and I become “whole in him” (see Colossians 2:9–10). I fully admit this is often hard to do when we are still in the midst of our suffering, and we just want to be delivered from it.
Hopefully, a time will come when the life of Christ will be so triumphant in us that we care more about others than our own selves, or, better, when there is no longer such a sharp distinction between my self and other selves. More than anything else, conversion is a reconstituted sense of the self. As Paul stated, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Rather than going into hiding, Etty Hillesum spent her last weeks of freedom supporting people who were facing deportation to Auschwitz. In her diaries she wrote:
I am not afraid to look suffering straight in the eyes. And at the end of each day, there was always the feeling: I love people so much. Never any bitterness about what was done to them, but always love for those who knew how to bear so much although nothing had prepared them for such burdens. 
We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds. 
. . . [A]ll we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last. 
Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world. 
 Etty Hillesum, Diary entry (October 8, 1942). See An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941–1943 and Letters from Westerbork, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (Henry Holt and Company: 1996), 227.
 Hillesum, Diary entry (October 13, 1942). Ibid., 231.
 Hillesum, Diary entry (July 12, 1942). Ibid., 178.
 Hillesum, Diary entry (September 29, 1942). Ibid., 218.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publishing: 2016), 122.