Read the previous article in this series here.

 Station V: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross

The cross had become too heavy for Jesus to carry alone. He could not ask or require anyone to help him, but the soldiers could. Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to carry the cross for Jesus (Luke 23:26). Like Jesus’ encounter with Mary, we have no record of a conversation between Simon and Jesus. We do, however, know that a stranger took a heavy burden from Jesus and walked behind him with it. By sharing the work of carrying the cross, Simon lessened Jesus’ suffering.

What can I offer the weak and dependent child in foster care? I say you should not expect to walk this journey alone. What do I say to the foster care parent? I say you are truly the face and hands of God, alleviating the suffering of the weakest and most dependent. What do I say to Christians and the church? Like Simon, we have been enlisted to take up the cross of Jesus and be the face and hands of God. God does not desire that children suffer. The proof of that statement lies in the fact that virtually every adult is equipped to step in and help a suffering child by accompanying him on his respective journey. Just as they did for me.

Station VI: Jesus Meets Veronica

Legend tells us that Veronica was with the disciples and Jesus during his ministry. Overcome with grief and sorrow at the sight of Jesus suffering, she pushed through the throngs in an effort to comfort him. With what might have been her veil, she wiped the blood and sweat from his face, and in response Jesus left an imprint of his face on her cloth of compassion. His is the face of everyone betrayed and abandoned. His is the face of humanity in pain and suffering. Like Mary and Simon before her, Veronica could not change the path Jesus was sentenced to walk. But in her compassion she acted compassionately. She did what she could to comfort Jesus, and in doing so was the face and hands of a loving God. And Jesus, in return, gave her the gift of his image. Is it the image of Jesus on the cloth that became her treasure, or the image of Jesus on her heart and mind?

What can I offer the suffering twelve-year-old foster child yearning to be shown compassion? What can I offer the suffering twenty-two-year-old bitter from compassion withheld? What can I offer the scared stranger afraid to act compassionately? In my experience, Jesus is the master mediator who reflects the image of a loving and compassionate God who does not desire any of us to suffer. I encourage each of these three to consider the compassion exchanged between Jesus and Veronica. Jesus paused in his suffering to accept compassion while Veronica set aside her fear in the face of suffering to render compassion. Is the God Jesus taught the author of suffering or fear? No, rather, God provides a way to diminish both by inviting each to respond to the other.

Station VII: Jesus Falls a Second Time 

If Simon is carrying Jesus’ cross, then Jesus does not likely fall this time straining under a physical weight. At one time or another, have we not all fallen under the burden of crushing emotional weight? Perhaps he began to wonder, “Are they right? Did I earn this? Do I deserve this?” Perhaps it was under the weight of these thoughts and disappointments that Jesus collapsed, and who can blame him? Are you still uncertain whether Jesus’ suffering is the will of God? Consider a simple human analogy. Would any employer reward one of her valuable employees, arguably her most valuable and cherished employee, by telling the other employees to kill him? No. Rather, it is much more reasonable to conclude the other employees were simply jealous and conspired to kill the cherished one to quench their envy. History is replete with similar examples.

What can I offer the emotionally bankrupt second-grader who is so jealous that he cannot feel sympathy for his injured foster brother? What can I offer the emotionally bankrupt teenager who is so jealous of the attention others receive that he plots to kill his foster sister? I say that I know what it is to have such feelings. Is it the will of God for any of us to be so jealous that we lack sympathy or plot to kill? No. I alone owned those thoughts and God wasn’t to blame. Why? Because I hadn’t yet invited God into the despair of my life, so I have no reason to think God was putting any thoughts into my head. Jealously and the evil that follows spring from an absence of God, an absence caused by shutting God out of our despair.