Suffering is one of the hardest subjects for me to write about. Yet, it is one of the most powerful topics. It is, in fact, so powerful that I will divide the the topic of suffering into two parts.
Last night, we had our monthly Teams of Our Lady meeting. Earlier in the week, we had learned that one of our sector Teams members very unexpectedly lost their 2 year old son to a massive brain hemorrhage. The little boy leaves behind his parents and 4 siblings, one of which is still in his mothers womb. There were many tears shed at our meeting for this lovely family. Even as I tell you this story, I am wiping away tears. No parent can imagine the horrific tragedy of burying their child. No sibling can imagine the pain of never seeing their brother or sister again. It begs the question, if God is all good, then why does He allow suffering?
God never promised to take away suffering. Instead He invites us into suffering. Why? Because suffering is redemptive. Suffering will transform us. When we offer our sufferings to Christ, He will use those sufferings to make us stronger. He will give us clear vision of His saving grace. God will transform suffering. God makes our suffering have meaning.
St. Paul frequently wrote about suffering with Christ, and the redemptive privilege that suffering could bring. "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ, our comfort flows. If we are distressed, it is for Your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for Your comfort, which produces in You patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for You is firm, because we know that just as You share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." (2 Cor. 1:5-7) Let's digest this.
Christ suffered. He suffered in the ultimate way. He suffered so that we may be comforted in the knowledge of His promise of Heaven. Mary suffered. Her own heart was pierced by a sword. Mary knows the pain of seeing her son suffer and die. Christ and Mary's suffering was redemptive. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines redemption as "the action of saving from sin." Christ's redemptive suffering allowed His love to be poured out on all mankind by offering Himself as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins by which to open the gates of Heaven. Mary's suffering was redemptive in that through the death of her only Son, she became the Queen of Heaven.
When we unite our distress with Christ, we comfort Him because we place our full trust in Him. When we go through the sufferings of life, we become broken. We become empty. We become silent amidst the distractions of life. It is when we are in this broken, empty silence that we can truly be transformed by God. He will take our distress and transform us into something beautiful for His glory. When we unite our distress with Christ, we unite with His distress on the Cross. Life is full of distress, or slivers of the Cross. Don't carry your Cross with resignation. Carry it firmly on your shoulders. God has chosen to give you a minute particle of His Cross so that you can transform the world.
We hope in Christ. All of the great saints had crosses that they carried. They all maintained their steadfast hope in Christ and thereby allowed themselves to be transformed. When you unite your sufferings to the Cross, you will find great strength to endure. Jesus will never let you fall. Jesus loves you and He will comfort you. Jesus will never forsake you. He wants you joined to Him. St. Paul was beaten, whipped, shipwrecked, cursed and spat upon. He still maintained his positive hope in Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Hope is a theological virtue. Its immediate object is God. Hope is given to each soul, along with Charity and Faith, by the Almighty God. Hope contains goodness and love. As such, our Creator is the direct object of goodness and love. When we hope in Christ, we look for goodness and love. When we hope in Christ amidst our sufferings, we know that we can receive the Almighty's love and goodness. God will never let us suffer for nothing. When we unite our suffering with Christ, we allow ourselves to be open to the blessings of goodness and love by our Heavenly Father. We will allow ourselves to be taken into the arms of Mary and receive her loving, comforting embrace. God is a merciful, tender and loving God. He will always comfort us, no matter the depths of our sufferings. Life, love, goodness, hope, faith and charity will always prevail.
"Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." -St. John Paul II