Written by Keith Strohm
In carrying out Christ's mission of love and salvation to the world, it is inevitable that we ourselves will encounter personal darkness and suffering along the Way. That suffering could stem from an intolerable work situation, a family tragedy, an argument with a friend, or the accumulated detritus of living as a fallen person in a fallen world. The point is, that we who are called to be light for the world will also, at times, walk in our own darkness. We will be called to minister to someone at precisely the moment when we experience the greatest need for ministry in our own hearts. Serving others will be for us, in that moment, the one thing that we would like to do the least.
And it is precisely at that moment, perhaps, when we should most offer ourselves to the other. Something happens when we acknowledge our own suffering and our limitations, when we, stretched beyond endurance on the cross that we have been given, nevertheless offer the anger, frustration, and pain that we experience to God and surrender the 'nothingness' we have to give so that Christ may use it for the good of the other whom He has called us, in that moment, to serve.
No, I'm not saying that if you're life is falling apart you should run out and sign up for a whole bunch of ministries. Such frenetic action will lead inevitably to burnout and more suffering, and it is a signal that, perhaps, we are running away from our pain, trying to cover it in a pace of activity that will push it from our mind, at least for a little while. Christ, however, calls us to embrace the cross. So, in the circumstances of our own particular lives, there will be situations that present themselves to us, people whose own orbit of suffering places them within our own. It is in that confluence of need that Christ is truly present, and where He calls us to that complete immolation of self, so like His own, for the sake of the other. It is there, against every instinct of self preservation, that we must reach out in our weakness to serve the other, and it is there that Christ will perfect our weakness and work through what we have given Him to heal and make His presence known to another person.
This is precisely the lay apostolate in action. It is one way in which our growth in holiness happens, not in spite of the world, but in and through our life in the world. In that dying, we find a kind of holy peace--one that doesn't erase our own pain and suffering, but rather gives us the strength to endure it.