Many people have lost sight of the promises of God because of the tragedy and sorrow they see in the world all around them. They say, if God is love, why does He allow or permit such sufferings, pains and evils to plague His children? In answer, we could draw one of three conclusions. Either God doesn’t care or God doesn’t exist or perhaps we have a misconception of His plans and purposes and we have been attributing blame to the wrong source for all of the suffering.
Saint Paul in describes Satan as the “god of this world,” and it was his influence that contributed to man’s fall (2 Corinthians 4:4). Suffering happens to everyone. It is a part of life. We all experience it in various capacities. Whether our suffering is due to loss, loneliness, depression, persecution or scorn, it is inescapable. Although we may not be able to avoid suffering and pain, we can react to it, and how we react makes all the difference.
John Cardinal O’Connor of New York once told a suffering woman that “Christ could have saved the world by His miracles, but He chose to save the world by His suffering.” This great truth is the basis of our understanding of redemptive suffering. As we see in Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was whipped so we could be healed.”
The relationship between our present life and the life to come is the condition for the meaningfulness of our sufferings in this life. The gospel shows us that suffering is an opportunity given to us to participate in our future blessedness by offering our present sufferings in union with Christ’s suffering to God in self-giving sacrifice. Our suffering then takes on a whole different dimension, transformed from the occasion of a fist-shaking interrogation of God or cause for doubting His goodness or existence into the great opportunity to show Him trust and self-donation without the least futility, knowing that it will be repaid a hundredfold.
In his encyclical, Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII wrote that “Jesus Christ, when He redeemed us with plentiful redemption, took not away the pains and sorrows which in such large proportions are woven together in the web of our mortal life. He transformed them into motives of virtue and occasions of merit; and no man or woman can hope for eternal reward unless he follows in the blood-stained footprints of His Savior. ‘If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him’” (n. 21, quoting 2 Timothy 2:12).
Here are a few tips I shall propose to deal with suffering and pain. Embrace change. Smile even if you don’t feel it. Soften someone else’s suffering. Don’t try to understand the depth of your suffering. Also, understand that there is a reason for your suffering. Accept the suffering and don’t let it consume you. Read your Bible, especially the book of Job. Finally, pray that God sends you the grace to help you overcome suffering. You cannot overcome any form of suffering without God.
--Father Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson