|Healing Power of Suffering|
|From the time of Adam and Eve, man has tried to escape suffering in any form. It is a mystery to all except the holy ones of God. The prophets saw it as a call from God to repent. The Apostles saw it as "a happy privilege" to imitate Jesus. Pagans saw it as foolishness. Men of today see it as an evil and try to avoid it, but it follows them wherever they go.
The Father chose suffering for his Son from his birth to his death and Jesus reminded us that the servant is not above the master. If he, as God-Man had to "suffer in order to enter into his glory,, then we too must suffer in order to prepare ourselves for our glory.
God is love and he wants to share himself with us here and in eternity, but the cravings of our nature, the lure of riches, and the temptations of the enemy all combine to distract, dissuade and discourage us from our goal. The sufferings of this life not only make our temperament more like the divine personality of Jesus, but detach us from the things of this world. This divine preparation opens our souls to the working and pruning of the Father.
Our degree of glory and our capacity for love for all eternity will depend upon our grace at the moment of our death.
How many times have we implored God for some favor with great fervor, only to suffer the most crushing disappointment. Months or years later, our hearts break out in prayer of thanksgiving when we look back and realize the acquisition of such a "favor" would have been disastrous!
Throughout the Old Testament, one can almost feel the heart of God reaching a breaking point as he pleads with his people not to live outside of his will. Not because he desires all men to do as he says, but because the creatures he made, live happier lives when they love their creator. It is for their sake, not his. that he brings them back to him by chastisement.
He alone knows what is best for the creatures he made. He knows what is necessary to prepare that creature for another existence far superior to the one into which he was created. There is a positive step to happiness called "The Commandments" designed to make his creatures operate at the peak of their capabilities.
When the soul disobeys these simple rules, made for a higher purpose, untold suffering ensues. We cannot blame this suffering on God. It is the inevitable result of disobedience.
Even so, God, who watches our unreasonable behavior, brings good out of evil. Only when man deliberately and consistently rejects his pursuing love, does man fall from grace. The beautiful human being created in the image of God, becomes a grotesque caricature of what he was meant to be.
One of the best examples of corrective suffering is our conscience. The small child reaching for a cookie that his mother has forbidden him to eat, feels a quiet uneasiness pass over his soul, like the touch of an invisible hand. He can feel his soul, for a short moment, recoil from disobedience.
A man who listens to this silent admonisher in his life will be happier; if he does not listen, the pain increases and he loses his peace. When he consistently refuses to acknowledge the presence of his conscience or the suffering it brings, he kills it and never feels this corrective suffering again. One day he will totally reject God.
The sinner who suddenly realizes God's love for him and then looks at his rejection of that love, feels a loss similar to the death of a loved one. A deep void is created in the soul and a loneliness akin to the agony of death. The soul feels wrapped in an icy grip of fear. This is not, however, the fear of punishment, but the realization of its ingratitude towards so good and loving God. Sorrow begins to heal the wounds made by sin and God himself comforts the soul with the healing balm of his mercy and compassion.
If the sin were great, the soul, humbled by self-knowledge, remembers its weakness so as never to offend God again, but forever rejoices in his mercy. This combination of mourning and comfort keeps the soul in a state of dependence and trust in God, who sought and found His lost sheep.
Man seeks to make up for his sins in some positive way. A thief gives away something to the poor; a man with a temper seeks to be gentle. King David realized that accomplishing some good work was pleasing to God, but he knew something it would be well for us to remember. He understood that the very suffering of his repentance was pleasing to God.
The word "redeem" means to rescue, set free, ransom, and to pay the penalty incurred by another. We often lose sight of the definition to "set free," and miss the power of our example as christians to do exactly that - set our neighbour free. St. Paul did not want the sufferings encountered by being a christian to discourage or dishearten anyone. He realized that when the christian saw the blessings and grace that poured upon him after his trials, he would gain courage to suffer in his turn. Whatever we do to our neighbor, we do it to Jesus and all the sufferings our neighbour encounters in his daily life to help to build up the Mystical Body of Christ. What is the purpose of all this suffering for others? "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love," says St. Paul, "to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ" (Col. 2:2).
"We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering."(2 Cor. 6:4-10)
To see a christian believe in God's love when sorrow befalls him gives hope.
To see joy on the face of a christian beset with trials and problems, gives us a new concept of faith.
To see someone crushed but serene over the death of a loved one, makes us realize there is another life.
To see sickness and pain patiently borne gives us courage.
To see a friend who has suffered the loss of all things begin again with trust and love, gives us strength to continue on.
To see forgiveness and mercy after friends quarrel, brings joy to our hearts.
To see sinners turn to God and rise to great heights of sanctity, increases our trust in his love and mercy.
No matter what kind or what degree of pain and sorrow we must endure, we are capable of witnessing to the love of Jesus. The very fruit the Spirit bears in us calls for suffering. St. Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is love, but it is not always easy to love. Our love must extend itself to the unlovable. We are to be joyful, but we must be detached and possess a great trust in God to maintain joy.
One of human nature's greatest sufferings is the kind that is within the soul. It is called Interior suffering and is difficult because although we can express it to a friend, we can never express it on the level of experience. Physical pain can be measured by degrees and machines, but Interior suffering is experienced only by the soul and is known only to God.
Its variety is unlimited because each soul's mental, spiritual, temperamental and intellectual level differs from anyone elses. Each soul is a unique creation from the hand of God and its sufferings are totally its own.
Physical pain affects the soul in as much as the soul reacts either patiently or impatiently with the condition of the body, but interior suffering is spiritual pain. Resentments, doubts and luke warmness eat at our soul and create an emptiness that places us in a spiritual vacuum. Temperament faults play havoc with our faculties and send our human spirit on a merry-go-round of confusion and discouragement.
Time lays heavy upon us and monotony covers us like a fog in the night. Success often brings the fear of failure and the constant grind of eating, sleeping and working creates a lethargy that leads to boredom. Misunderstandings can gnaw at our souls as we seek for solutions to impossible situations. The remembrance of past sorrows and the prospect of more to come, paralyze our soul and place us in a state of near despair.
Perhaps the greatest interior suffering is the kind that strikes us when we thirst for God and then find ourselves deprived of the awareness of His presence. We can with stand the distress that comes from our imperfections and the coldness of our neighbour, but when God seems so far away, there is no greater pain.
We see this interior suffering in St Peter and Paul as doubts assailed them regarding circumcision, sorrow over the persecution and death of their converts, the misunderstandings between christians and the harassment of fellow Jews. At times they were weary and Paul speaks of his anguish and weariness of soul as a sting of the flesh.
Interior suffering can be more purifying than any other form of pain because we are forced to cope with it. We can distract ourselves and forget a sprained ankle, but when dryness, weariness, sadness, worry and fear assail us, they hound us wherever we go. We must understand why God permits this interior suffering, for at first glance it would seem life provides enough pain to sanctify us.
Daily trials and even physical pain are somehow outside of us, but interior pain, be it spiritual or mental, is deep within, and forces us to be patient and practice virtue. Interior trials sanctify us slowly because they have the power to change us for the better. It is in the soul, in our personality and temperament, that change must occur if we are to reflect the image of Jesus.
We may have cancer and be healed, but never change. We may triumph over some disagreeable situation, but never change. But when our pain is inside our soul and we cooperate with God's grace in using it, then it has the power to change us.
It is in our souls that God does his most magnificent work. The world may look upon the aged, the sick and the retarded with sympathy, but God's work in their souls, through the power of interior suffering, is doing a greater work than when he created the universe. Only in eternity shall we see the beauty of the soul and only then shall we realize what great things were accomplished by interior suffering.
We can be sure that:
Dryness makes us patient as we seek to love God for himself.
Mental anguish makes us depend upon his wisdom.
Doubts increase ourfaith when we act according to our beliefs rather than our reasoning.
Fear makes us trust God's providence and hope in His goodness.
Anxiety leads us to distrust ourselves and release our problems to an all loving God.
Worry makes us realize our helplessness and instills a desire to throw ourselves into the arms of his Infinite wisdom.
Discouragement over our imperfections makes us strive for holiness with greater determination.
Uncertainty as to our future makes us look forward to the Kingdom.
Disappointments detach us from the things that pass and make us look to those that are everlasting.
If we saw the Hand of God in our moment to moment existence we would soon realize that our neighbour is being used by God to bring us out of darkness into a marvelous light. For the most part, our neighbour is not aware that he is a cross to us, but the cross he places on our shoulders is of more benefit to our souls than the compliments of our friends.
Suffering in itself does not make us holy. If it did, all those in hell would be saved, for they endure great suffering and that pain is eternal.
It is because Jesus suffered and we unite our pain to his, that suffering changes and transforms us. It is because his Spirit dwells in our souls through baptism that he suffers when we suffer. What we do to the least, we do to Jesus and as we inflict pain on others without knowing what we are doing, so we suffer badly, not realizing what treasures we lose.
We find a striking example in Scripture of wasted suffering in the gospel of St. John. Jesus told the disciples, "They will expel you from the synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you, will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself." (John. 16:2,3)
Whenever we suffer without love it is wasted pain.
Jesus And Suffering
Jesus knew that once he, the Son of the Father, was stretched out on the cross, all men of faith would obtain the strength to endure the sufferings the Father permitted in their lives.
Jesus knew suffering would not pass from any of us after his Resurrection and he made sure we understood its role in our lives. Throughout the Gospels, he promises us suffering and persecution and asks that we accept it with Joy.
He called all those who suffer, blessed - when they overcame their natural weaknesses. He promised Heaven to those who suffered interior and exterior poverty. To those who preferred God to themselves, he promised union with the Father. To those who put their feelings and resentments aside and forgave, he promised mercy. To those who struggled to maintain peace, he promised sonship. And to those who suffered because they loved him, he promised joy.
Before all these fruits would be manifested. some kind of suffering was necessary. His own suffering would have been powerful enough to destroy suffering from the face of the earth, but he did not choose this course. He preferred to continue permitting suffering and make himself the example for all men to follow.
Excerpts from Healing Power of Suffering
by Mother M. Angelica