The question we ask ourselves in these times that we live in is; “can we find joy in suffering?” At first this seems like a contradictory question, joy and suffering are opposed to each other, so how is this even imaginable? As always let’s turn to the gospel. In the letter to the Romans, St. Paul takes the question above and gives us a deeper meaning on suffering.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Suffering is a part of the human race, because of the fall of man (disobedience of Adam and Eve) we all must endure some type of suffering in our lives. The questions are, what do we do with our sufferings and can we get closer to Christ by suffering?
First, what do we do with our suffering? In all my years of evangelizing, I have noticed two kinds of people: the kind that curse God for their suffering and the kind that thank God for their suffering. St. Paul suffered with joy for one reason only and that was to bring the Gospel, the message of salvation, to the people. He endures his suffering so that they may obtain salvation.
“I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which in Christ Jesus goes with eternal glory.” (2 Tim 2:10-12)
Everyone that “rejoices in their suffering” are doing it for the sake of the Gospel and are bringing souls closer to Jesus because of their witness. Our Lord did not obtain eternal glory until he went through his passion, death, and finally his glorious resurrection. If Jesus had to suffer to obtain eternal glory then we will also suffer to obtain eternal glory. One of the reasons that St. Paul can rejoice in his suffering is because he says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” He is filled with the Holy Spirit just as we are since our baptism and we know that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit we can endure any trials or tribulations that life throws at us.
Suffering comes in all different forms; they could be mental, physical, or spiritual. In whatever form they come, we are to “take up our cross daily” offer it up to the Lord and unite it with his suffering. If we were just to suffer without any meaning then, it would be empty suffering, but suffering in faith, suffering knowing that we are created for the Kingdom of God, produces endurance to keep going. When an athlete trains for a race he is training for endurance so he can finish the race and not be left behind; he does whatever he can to build his endurance, his muscles, and his mind to complete what he has started. We, as Catholics, must also prepare for the suffering that will come our way – and it will. We should never wait for the suffering to come but, let us always be prepared. Some of the tools that we have to train for this suffering are given to us by the Catholic Church; the sacraments, mass, prayer, the rosary, the saints, novenas, relics and adoration.
These gifts that the Church has given us should not just be used when suffering comes our way, they should be a part of our daily lives so that when the suffering comes, we will be prepared to handle it and not fall into despair. Because, if we fall into despair then there is no hope in our lives. When we fall into despair, we turn from God and do not allow him to be effective in our lives. We even convince ourselves that God is not doing anything in our lives. If we don’t have hope in everything that we do, even going to church and receiving the sacraments, would be useless. Hope cannot disappoint us because His Spirit has filled us with His love.
In my own journey of suffering, I came to the realization that either I can do something to bring people to Jesus or I can do things that will lead people away from Jesus and of course I chose to lead people to our Lord and my life has been filled with nothing but joy, peace, and happiness. I look back at the time I was going through all my suffering and I can honestly say that it was the some of the best moments in my life, because that suffering united me more intimately with Jesus and his own passion.
Is suffering difficult? Of course, it is! But, our Lord will help us through it. Always remember, that sometimes when we ask for healing and we don’t receive a physical healing, Jesus always sends us spiritual healing first before he sends us physical healing, because the most important thing is to make sure our soul is healed before our body.
Sickness, suffering, and death are an inseparable part of this fallen world. But we must remember that we are not created for this world. We were created by God and for His Kingdom, where there is no suffering and death. The Christian must not ask themselves why is there suffering. The Christian must rejoice in the suffering, giving it to God and receiving the gift of eternal life.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Jeff Kassab has a BA in Pastoral
Theology and is a Board Member of
the Eastern Catholic Re-evangelization