Despair Loses Its Power Beneath The Cross of Jesus

Despair Loses Its Power Beneath The Cross of Jesus March 27, 2024

Suffering is part of life. Learning to unite this suffering to Christ helps us become cooperators in his redemptive work and helps to stave off despair.

Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation).

If you are ever feeling down or discouraged as a Christian, look to the writings of St. Paul. Here was a passionate man whose love for Christ is apparent on every page of his writing. Once he had his conversion experience on the Road to Damascus, he was convinced that the message of Jesus Christ was the truth and dedicated himself fully to following him and preaching that same message. With Paul, take your place before the cross of Jesus and learn from him how to defeat despair in every aspect of your life.

Contemplating the Passion of Jesus

Paul loved to contemplate the Passion of Jesus, because it gave him strength and power in his own ministry. He looked at the suffering Jesus and became inspired to do more to establish Christ’s Kingdom. He knew that Jesus showed his love primarily by suffering and dying for us.

And if he loved us in this way, suffering and dying, then with this suffering and death of his he lives in the one whom he loved in this way; he lives in the man: in Paul. And living in him-to the degree that Paul, conscious of this through faith, responds to his love with love-Christ also becomes in a particular way united to the man, to Paul, through the Cross. This union caused Paul to write, in the same Letter to the Galatians, other words as well, no less strong: “But far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14) (St. John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 20)

So often, we are tempted to seek glory for its own sake. This is part of what leads us to sentiments of despair because this glory is beyond our reach. It takes humility to recognize that we should love God and his glory above all things. We can only learn this lesson by contemplating Jesus on the cross.

Jesus on the Cross
Jesus overcomes despair | Courtesy:

Standing for Something

The world wants us to go along with crazy new ideologies. Sometimes, it feels like we are living in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” If we do not affirm the official line or what is popular, we risk being ostracized. It requires strength and courage to stand up to the tide of madness that seems to be taking over.

It seems impossible to curb the surge of unhuman ideology. But even if it really is impossible, we have to try. This is one reason why I love Cervantes’ character Don Quixote, because he is willing to stand up for his ideals even when victory seems elusive. He never feared sufferings inflicted by carrying out his mission, since in his mind

the wounds received in battle bestow honor, they do not take it away. (Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote)

Don Quixote as an Antidote to Despair

We should learn to fear not the blows of the enemy, but rather the pain of inaction. When we are steeled to suffering, we are amenable to face adversity if this can serve some greater good. Don Quixote was unafraid of suffering since he never doubted the value of his mission.

The knight’s sole responsibility is to succor them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds (Miguel Cervantes, Don Quixote).

To suffer on a knightly errand may be noble, but suffering with Christ is the noblest of human endeavors. It gives us the courage to face the world’s trials and tribulations. Sometimes, even harder than facing the suffering of the world, is to face the suffering of an individual. We feel weak and incapable of understanding the full depths of their afflictions. Nevertheless, as Christian disciples, we can introduce them to someone who does fully comprehend their pain: Jesus Christ the Lord. When we come across someone who is suffering, it is not the time to point out their failings and sins, but rather to point them to Jesus on the cross. By loving the suffering soul back into the faith, it may be precisely this encounter that springboards them into restoring their relationship with God.

Messengers of Hope

We are called to bring a message of hope into the world. There truly is a constant decision to be made between good and evil in our lives. Too many people give into discouragement and seem to be like Christians who do not believe in the Resurrection. We stand with Mary and John at the foot of the cross, consoled and encouraged by our faith that he will conquer death.

We too are called to decide on which side to stand. One can stand on the side of the sepulchre or on the side of Jesus. There are those who allow themselves to be closed within their pain and those who open up to hope. There are those who remain trapped among the ruins of life, and those who, like you, with God’s help, pick up the ruins of life and rebuild with patient hope (Pope Francis).

It can be selfish to hold onto our sorrow and discouragement. Sometimes, we need help letting go of this self-pity so that we can stand with Christ both under the cross and at his resurrection. When we hold on to Jesus, we are forced to let go of our despair because he does not allow it in his own life in spite of insurmountable obstacles.

But a man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation).

The cross of Jesus teaches humility because Jesus is the most humble of all men even though he is greater than all men. He teaches us that even though it can be difficult to let go of the pain, it is always worth it. When we become more aware of what Jesus went through to save us, we become less worried about our own pain and difficulties, because our love for him takes over.

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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