The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: III.
Today, let us consider an interpretation of St. Bernard’s words that differs from the one we have been thinking about in the two previous posts.
Perhaps we are going though a very painful time right now. We may have read St. Bernard’s words and felt instantly that the “nail” to which he refers is not the one piercing the hand of the crucified Lord. This is a nail that pierces our own heart.
This nail is the nail of our own sufferings – sufferings which feel too heavy to carry. These are sufferings that make us fear that we will not only collapse under them, but we will never rise again. The pain is too great. We feel shaken to our core. There seems to be no way forward.
Why is this happening to us, we wonder? What is God trying to say? Why is he allowing this?
The mystery of suffering is very deep indeed, and I cannot pretend to be able to plumb its depths. Yet, I can affirm from my own experiences that God’s mercy encompasses sufferings. How? Without in any way claiming to say all there is to say about this profound subject, I will offer just a few thoughts.
Perhaps, the first trace we might find of God’s mercy in times of suffering is that he sustains us in faith. Faith is always a gift – and never more so than in times of suffering. We may not understand why we are suffering in this way, but, through his grace, we are able to maintain some kind of relationship with God – we don’t just drop him, despite the fact that we may not be feeling very devout or prayerful. His grace keeps us “in touch” with him. We may be angry, or despondent, or frightened, or any number of other things. But we still hang on to him. And he hangs on to us – although this may be difficult to detect.
Second, by means of his merciful grace, we are learning to wait. We wait for the answers to come. We wait for the new life to emerge. We wait for the pain to subside. We wait for God to teach us whatever he means to teach us through this pain. I remember asking a priest why the process of healing seemed (and was) so slow. He said, wisely, that God usually works within the usual human processes and time-frames. Time is needed for growth and healing. There is no “fast-track” here. We wait. This knowledge was helpful to me at the time, but still, there is no sense in which this is an easy wait.
Finally – or, better, gradually – and in God’s time, we begin to discover that through this experience of suffering, a new “door” is opening into a new depth of relationship with God. All the pain has not been meaningless, and it has not been fruitless. The nail has unlocked a door which could not have been opened but for the pain we have experienced. The very experiences that we thought would be our undoing, have, in fact, shown themselves to be of crucial importance in our life with God and with people. They have been key experiences, full of meaning and life, without which we would not have advanced in our relationship with the Lord. “The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door.”