God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.St Augustine
We will all suffer in this life. That is the truth of our fallen world. The question is how to suffer well? If we suffer well, we may do great good, and also suffer less in purgatory, but if we suffer poorly, we will multiply our suffering and only bring further punishment on ourselves.
To suffer well, we must accept suffering from the hands of Our Father, in obedience, in humility, and in love.
We must suffer all that comes our way in obedience to God’s will, recognising the truth that all things are directed according to His providence and will, to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Our suffering comes to us from God, and we must not refuse it, simply because it is His will for us.
You might find the thought that God has willed your suffering upsetting, but actually this should comfort us. Suffering is not the ultimate evil that it’s often portrayed as. It is not meaningless or pure evil. It is a gift, albeit a mysterious gift, of our loving Father. We can accept suffering because He is trustworthy.
It was by Jesus’s obedience to the Father upon the cross that Adam’s fatal disobedience has been undone (Romans 5:19), and so by suffering in obedience we are united to Jesus’s obedience and cooperate in the redemption of the world.
We must suffer in humility before God, acknowledging that we are sinners, worthy of all suffering, deserving of the fires of hell for our crimes against God who is all good and deserving of all our love. When we suffer, we should see it as a just penance for our sins, and that by this suffering we are paying a small part of our incredible debt to God.
Again, you might find this thought disturbing, and might even think it an unhealthy way of seeing yourself. And it can be, if it’s separated from from a proper awareness of God’s merciful love. But joined to that awareness, it is a liberating truth: through our suffering, the Father is disciplining us for our good, that we may share in His holiness (see Hebrews 12:5-11). Of ourselves, we are utterly unworthy of all His good gifts, but we are loved and thereby made worthy.
When we suffer with humility, we are giving God our all and asking nothing in return. It is a more perfect gift, because it is not tainted with pride. We get to offer ourselves without even claiming any credit for our offering. As Jesus tells us, we should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Luke 17:10) This humility is Jesus’s entire way of being, His whole life of emptying Himself and claiming nothing for His own (Philippians 2:6-7).
We must suffer in love for God, taking suffering as an opportunity to give ourselves to Him, along with the things that are most dear to us. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only beloved son (Genesis 22:2), and if we wish to be perfect we too must look to be ready to offer God our everything, trusting Him.
By offering ourselves and all we love to the Father, in love for Him, we are united to Jesus’s sacrifice upon the cross and upon the altar. We pass over from earth to heaven, from death to resurrection, from Adam to Christ. When we suffer like this, united to Jesus, our suffering and His become one, and our suffering gains immense value.
So, how do we suffer in obedience, humility, and love? Basically, by willing to. Each time you suffer something, by a quick mental act accept it and give it to God, saying something like, “All for you, Jesus“. It won’t cease to be suffering and it won’t become easy, but I have found that it brings a certain peace and a certain strength, because it has a meaning and because you’re no longer suffering it alone. I also recommend praying the morning offering first thing each morning, to formally offer up all the day’s prayers, works, and sufferings.
May you have a blessed lent! God bless!
Accepting pain or the suffering it causes is accepting reality, but when there are means to alleviate pain and suffering we should accept those too: drugs, exercise, medical intervention… If I cannot work because of pain, my colleagues suffer, my clients suffer. Humility sometimes demands that I accept help, or that I admit that my actions can make my suffering worse, as, for example, lifting a heavier weight than my back can safely bear. Pride then comes before a fall!
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That’s very true. It’s important we look after ourselves properly so that we can offer God our work each day