My husband is training for a new job and one of the things he is learning about is empathy. During his training, a psychologist presented three forms of empathy: cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. Cognitive empathy occurs when you understand the suffering of another person from a logical standpoint. You feel bad for them and seek to help them without letting their problems get “under your skin.” The second form of empathy, emotional, happens when you feel the pain of someone who is experiencing something adverse. The third type of empathy is compassionate. This type of empathy envelops every part of your soul so that you are unable to extricate yourself from another’s sufferings.
I want to share with you my experience, through prayer, of God’s compassionate empathy for those struggling with infertility. A couple of years ago I was praying the Rosary; I forget which Mysteries I was praying, but it was not the Sorrowful Mysteries. This is important so that you understand that what happened next was not a figment of my imagination, but a breakthrough that occurred while I was concentrating on the Mysteries upon which I was meditating. Suddenly, a picture of Christ Crucified burst into my mind. It was brief, perhaps no more than three heartbeats at most. The picture was so strong that tears immediately poured from my eyes. I do not believe that I have a true memory of it, but the description that follows is what my mind reconstructed after the experience, and what I hold on to. Importantly, I share only a reconstruction of the experience; things of the soul are not able to be shared or reproduced. This is the fruit of that experience.
Christ was looking at me with both eyes and the feeling I got from His eyes was anger beyond all anger and sadness beyond all sadness. The anger was akin to the rage of a human being who is treated with derision, contempt, and hatred that He did not deserve. The sadness was the sadness of rejection, and the unspeakable loss of a life that was meant to be lived but was not.
Through my prayer, God was showing me His empathy for all of us who are faced with infertility. Our anger at God for not giving us the gift of life, even though we have tried so hard to merit it, and to achieve it, is mirrored in Christ’s anger, on our behalf, on the Cross. The contempt — both displayed and hidden — that others have for us, because we are not able to do what most every other living thing is able to do, is a contempt that He experienced directed at Himself. Our sadness at the loss of so many children we long to love, to raise and to celebrate is Christ’s loss of His life at such a young age. The combination of anger and sadness is… grief. This vision is a vision of the God who grieves in compassion for His children who grieve.
I saw His face swollen and purple. It was not even shaped like a face; it was just a massive bruise from receiving so many punches from ignorant and cruel people. I have never seen a face so horribly and completely disfigured. I could not see the rest of His body, except that I knew it was there. Behind the Cross was absolute blackness: the darkness and blindness of abandonment. How many times have we felt abandoned by God as we pray and hear nothing? How many people close to us have had prayers answered, children born, and relationships fostered while our own marriages are breaking apart, our self-worth is at an all-time low, and we feel cut off from every living thing?
We can try to fix our infertility. We can try to help ourselves cope with infertility. Ultimately, infertility is a cross and a cross cannot be fixed or even coped with. It must be carried. We harm our own hearts and souls if we become like the bad thief by wasting our cross and our sufferings. Therefore, we should not curse God, complain, or seek answers that go against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Let us, instead, carry our cross with Love.
Christ’s compassionate empathy for us is extraordinary. Yes, we may feel abandoned when our prayers go unanswered. Yes, we may hurt and suffer grief — daily, monthly, or in whatever duration our situation entails. Yes, we may feel afflicted by God (or by Nature, which God created and set laws in place to govern) and by others. Most important of all, though, is that we are not without hope when we realize that we ourselves are on that cross with Christ. Our sufferings are fruitful, and we will see a resurrection.
I wish to be “Anonymous” as the author of this blog post. I was not going to write, but I have been blessed by Springs in the Desert and want to be part of this ministry, to bless others. The blessing I want to give you, the reader, is God’s compassionate love.
This post was written anonymously.