Walking through Mud

How to Find Joy in Your Suffering with the Sorrowful Mysteries

Thirteen years ago, life changed dramatically for me and my children, then 10, 8, and 6. It’s the year I started walking through mud up to my neck. You know that feeling, right? It’s hard to get out of bed, to do once easy routine chores . . . it’s hard to breathe.

The Agony in the Garden – Becoming a single mom was not what I had planned. But when our sky was falling, and world was crumbling, God was there. He didn’t take this cup from me, but He did walk beside me, and the sorrowful mysteries became my constant companion.

Our local priest Father Papa advised me to create joyful memories, and Father Bork encouraged me to pray the Rosary daily with my children. Their wisdom helped me to see that there was joy in our suffering, and God’s grace in our lives.

The Scourging at the Pillar – When your world is crumbling, the people who you think will lend a helping hand often disappear or even worse — they persecute you. Persecution serves a purpose, though, by strengthening you. Jesus prayed for those who persecuted him — we can, too.

Raising children without the benefit of child support, I could never seem to earn enough to get even, let alone get ahead. Despite what little we had, our door was always open to share our humble offerings. Not because we were holy, but because we found joy in surrounding ourselves with loving people who soothed our open wounds.

The Crown of Thorns – As a single mom I worried constantly about what I couldn’t do for, or give to, my children. When storms came, I let blame fall on being a single parent. Slowly, though, I realized that all my married friends were having similar storms in their lives, and it brought a sense of relief knowing it wasn’t just me.

One of my dearest friends said she always prayed for a ring of thorns around her family. That stayed with me, and every single day I pray for a ring of thorns around my children, their future spouses, my mom, my ex-husband, and myself to keep our enemies and temptation away.

The Carrying of the Cross – One day, as I sat by myself on our porch steps, I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t think I could take another breath. We had just run out of heating oil, my $900 monthly rent was due, and I literally had $5 in my checking account. It was one of those moments that you cannot think straight to pray, and so you just say “God help me” out of desperation and sheer terror. In those moments God has an amazing way of putting people in your life in unexpected ways.

My neighbor saw my ashen face and felt my pain. Giving her a condensed version of my troubles, I said, “It will be alright, I have faith.” While my faith was feeling weak in that moment, a light was still shining, however dim. She brought us electric heaters and gave me a significant amount of money that day without wanting a thing in return. Friends have stepped in along our journey, and many have walked with us from the very beginning, never leaving our side. God puts people in our lives who wipe the blood, sweat, and tears from our face, like St. Veronica did for Jesus.

The Crucifixion – When days, weeks, and months of trials hit in our lives, it can feel like we have been crucified and there is no way out. One thing I’ve realized on this tumultuous journey called life is that suffering is suffering, and problems are problems, and neither discriminate based on marriage or economic status.

My parents gave me Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree when I was a teenager. I did not understand the importance of the message, or the depth of their love for me, until I had children of my own. Just as our mother Mary held Jesus in her arms from birth through death, my own mother has been doing the same for me; and her love, devotion, and sacrifice has never wavered.

When Jesus was suffering, our mother Mary stood at the foot of the Cross with John the Apostle and Mary Magdalene. They would not leave him. They could not take His suffering away, but they let Him know He was not alone. God puts people in our lives who will stand at the foot of our cross with us. They cannot take our cross from us, but we know we are not alone. During this Holy season of Lent, ask yourself who is standing at the foot of your cross. And who needs you at the foot of theirs?

Karen Eriksson-Lee About Karen Eriksson-Lee

Karen Eriksson-Lee is the Author of Walking Through Mud, published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review April 2019, founding President of the Board and Artistic Director for the 501c3 Nonprofit Living By His Grace Ministries, and a Student Support Coach in the Virginia Public School System.

Eriksson-Lee holds a Bachelor of Science for Dance with a Minor in Psychology from Shenandoah University, and a Master's of Education and Curriculum from Shippensburg University.

She was formerly a Special Education Counselor for Seton Home Study, Founder and Artistic Director of the Northern Virginia Academy of Ballet, and former faculty member at the world-renowned Central PA Youth Ballet under the Artistic Direction of the late Marcia Dale Weary.

Eriksson-Lee is the proud mother of three — Nastassia, Alexander, and Marlene — mother-in-law to Garret, and grandmother to sweet little Nolan and Oliver.