Jesus is a hard act to follow. Sure, we meditate about His human nature like how He was scared at the Garden of Gethsemane. We hear about His suffering and crucifixion. But Jesus is the Son of God; someone with super-human abilities that he demonstrated throughout the Gospels. Surely he must have had super-human abilities to deal with the suffering. We may profess that He was human in all ways but sin, but it’s still a difficult concept to fully believe. I think many of us hold to this notion that Jesus, while human, was stronger than we can ever be. We believe that our suffering must be greater than His because we don’t possess His divine faculties.
This idealized, almost magical view of Jesus leads to many of us having a hard time fully believing in God’s great plan. The Church teaches us that God doesn’t give us a larger challenge than we can handle. But when those challenges become too much, we start to question whether God expects too much of us. Is God overestimating our abilities? We can feel that God is even more distant because He doesn’t appear to understand us. We aren’t Jesus and yet sometimes we can feel that God expects us to act just like Him.
This is why I appreciate the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. It lays out a template on how we can realistically imitate Jesus. When I meditate on this mystery, it tells me that it’s okay to fall under the weight of life’s challenges. Jesus fell multiple times under the weight of the cross. At one point He even needed help carrying the cross from Simon of Cyrene. Jesus, in all his perfection, had a hard time physically doing God’s will.
We will also have hard times in our life. We will have times when we feel like everything is knocking us down and the weight of our crosses is crushing us. And as much as we may not want to admit it, that’s okay. That’s us imitating Jesus.
Sometimes, life needs to knock us down so that God can build us back up. We have to let go of our preconceived ideas of how life should be so that we can leave room for God to work His grace. And for some of us, God needs to be more forceful by giving us a large, seemingly insurmountable challenge. And we may ask “why God?” or even become angry with Him. But at least we’re talking to God in these cases and starting a dialog.
In Jesus Walks with Us Even When Our Cross is Too Heavy, Jeannie Ewing talks about her struggles raising a daughter with severe medical conditions. She admits that there were times when it felt like God was putting too much on her. She lays out a road map for dealing with the crushing pain. And like many other programs, it begins with acceptance. She writes:
Begin by telling yourself that the burden you are carrying is too much for you to bear. It is more than what you can handle. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed of this, as if you have somehow lost the possibility of sanctity in your very human experience. Acknowledge your hurt.
Building a Spiritual Reserve
Look at the ordering of the Sorrowful Mysteries. The Agony of the Garden comes before Jesus took up His cross. The ordering is significant. Jesus didn’t begin praying to God when He fell under the weight of the cross. He prayed to God before His arrest. He asked God for the strength to do His will before the challenges set in.
We should take Jesus’ prayer example to heart. We need to pray and talk to God before the challenges of life occur. We need to prepare ourselves for whatever direction life takes us. This is why daily Rosary prayer is so important. It allows us to build up a spiritual reserve that we can tap into when life gets difficult. We need to meet God halfway. He’ll be there with us when life’s difficulties hit us in force. But we need to also be with Him; drawing on a close relationship with Him.
The other great part of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is that there’s a flip side to it. We may be the Simon or Veronica to someone’s suffering. Someone may be praying to God for relief from sadness, pain, and suffering. But God’s answer may be to call on us to respond and help that person. We may be the miracle someone is praying for. But again, we have to be constantly praying so that we can hear God and respond to what he’s asking us to do. Sometimes God calls us to be a hero. But are we listening to the call in prayer?
Here’s the lawyer disclaimer. When I talk about falling, I’m not talking about falling into sin. Jesus never said through his preaching or his actions that sinning is okay. He understood that we have a tendency to sin and he gives us the gift of Reconciliation for that. When I talked about falling in this article, I’m referring to feeling crushed under the weight of life’s challenges or trying to follow God’s plan.