I recently attended a Catholic funeral for a man I did not know, which was held in a beautiful cathedral with unbelievably high ceilings and ornate artwork and magnificent stained glass windows. It was my first funeral mass and I found it full of symbolism and tears and beauty. When the priest stood up and talked about the recently deceased man who bravely fought cancer in the last year of his life, he said something casually that struck me as profound. The Catholic priest uttered the phrase “suffering evokes love” in the middle of his sermon, and I could no longer concentrate because I found myself going back to all of the truth hidden in those words.
Suffering evokes love. In the midst of cancer and heartache and funerals, love is there. In the throes of storms and trials and crucifixions, love rises up from ashes and presents itself like a warm blanket. Love waits in notes and hugs and bouquets of flowers. Love shows up in phone calls and shared tears and little gifts in hospital waiting rooms. It may not cause the pain to go away, but love is there, pointing to the bigger picture and leading us back to Jesus.
Yes, suffering evokes love, and love—the kind of agape love that surpasses worldly understanding—sometimes means suffering. Like childbirth or broken hearts, love often leads to pain. Because love and suffering, they are intertwined in the most beautiful way. The kind of way that leads us back to the cross. The kind of way that leads us to the gospel. Jesus bore the suffering on the cross because He so loved the world. The Messiah allowed nails to be driven into His hands and feet, and endured shouts of humiliation and anger, and cried out in hurt but followed through with the suffering-laced prophecy because He so loved us. Not because it was easy, but because suffering evokes love, and sometimes love evokes suffering. Do you mind if I sit and cry awhile over this truth?
But the greatest story doesn't end at the cross. It begins there. Suffering and love are connected in the magnificent way that leads to mercy and redemption, and "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). The sacred tree that held the tears of Jesus was always part of His plan for salvation, and God does indeed work all things--even the messiest, hardest things--for the good of those who love Him.
Let us remember the ultimate price which was paid on that old wooden cross. Let us be people who bring love to someone else in hurt, and let us look for it in our own seasons of suffering. Let us sing Hallelujah in the most broken of times. Let us always be seekers of Jesus.
Because love and suffering, they are intertwined in the most beautiful way. The kind of way that leads us back to the cross.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:3-5