I know loss and I know pain. Indeed, I have courted both on more than one occasion. I have felt the exhaustion of suffering as it bears down on my soul, and if I am truthful, there are days when I do not feel like asking my close allies to leave. The shroud of darkness I choose to wear seals the door to my soul and I sit in the dark, the barren landscape mirroring my sadness. Whisperings of comfort from those I love do little to relieve the pain.

In an age burgeoning with spiritual awakenings, mantras and endless platitudes, it is far too easy to get lost in the myriad of empty words. It is ironic to think that as we seek peace we can, in fact, succumb to turmoil and chaos. While attempting to find God in our suffering, I believe we impose our own personal thoughts of perfection onto ourselves and construct a prison that houses our aberrations. The endless rounds of asking Why?, the relentless self-criticism, mixed with feelings of inadequacy, produce a vision of an absent and punishing God. Our false perceptions persistently force us to try “step outside” our grief and present ourselves in a manner more pleasing to all.

Like many others, I have often sat in the community of my Church and yet never felt more alone. I read endless pages looking for answers and pondered God’s purpose for me. I listened to the prayers of many and the Word of God. I woke each morning and simply pushed through the day, believing in God’s Providence. I wore the trappings of my faith well and I suspect to many I was “together” and “holding up well … considering”. I knew Christ was with me but I had cast Him in a static, historical mould, a figure to whom I turned but did not truly welcome to the table. I spent so much time trying to move beyond the negative space that I forgot God dwells everywhere, even in our grief. There is no space in which He does not dwell. To the pain of death, in suffering, He moves. Living inside and beyond the brokenness.

I remembered a line I once read spoken by Pope Francis: Dios nos primerea. I do not speak Spanish but from my research I learned the words are Buenos Aires street slang and mean, God is waiting for you first. He anticipates our arrival. God seeks us out. He loved us first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. It is a realisation that God has been waiting for us all this time.

It was these three simple words that for me breathed life into Christ. The Lord was not asking me to ignore my suffering. Nor was He encouraging that I dwell in it. Instead I learned the Lord was with me, sharing my experience. He was present in my pain. The One who truly understood, who experienced suffering like no other, was with me, carrying my burden. Such enlightenment brings relief. I will become what God wills me to become, and in my submission, I recognise that I am broken. I am not perfect. I am certainly not saintly but I am loved. I am loved to a depth that the world’s greatest minds cannot begin to comprehend.

God is not a punishing God. He is not exacting pain so that I do better to reach some false bar of expectation. God already knows what I will achieve. If I do not reach my own or societal expectations, if I believe I have failed in some way, the Lord does not admonish. He does not ask me to abandon my unwelcome guests of pain, suffering and grief. Instead, He asks only that I make room at the table for One more. When I allowed the door to my soul to swing open it is there I found God waiting. His words were simple: You are mine. At times now when I feel the clouds gathering I no longer fear the storm. Instead, I brace myself for impact, knowing that when I look to the base of my cross there is One who is always there.  One who says, When you are ready – lift. I am with you always, to the end of the age. It is in such a way I now choose to live.

This post was written anonymously by “a new spring,” who writes from Ireland.