Once again, I want to preface this by saying that when I talk about loving suffering or wanting to be a saint or whatever in these past reflections, they are by no means my constant state of being. Sometimes I feel empowered to love these hard things; sometimes I hate them with a burning passion. Again, what matters is what I do and that’s sometimes noble, sometimes not. The feelings come and go, but the lesson I learned during that time remains absolutely true.
My husband Silvio is the most joyful person I know. He has a contagious laugh, he gets great joy out of life, and he loves me and God with a heart bigger than I knew anyone could have. But he also struggles with depression, which can be extremely overwhelming at times. So when I married him, I knew it would be a life of great joy and great suffering. Back then, I basically decided I was willing to endure the suffering for the times of joy.
But so often the suffering has been great enough that I have dreaded it so, which robs me of the joy in the times when suffering was absent.
Abba has been showing me lately the value of suffering–and somehow, even kindling in me a love for it. I cannot believe this about myself, and I’m sure if the moment came, I would still (at least part of me) wish it were gone.
But something that utterly transformed the way I viewed suffering was this. The end of 1 Thessalonians says, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” … “Do not quench the Spirit” for He’s THERE! The Mass says that to do this is our duty and our salvation. Then 2 Thessalonians says, after describing their perseverance amidst suffering, “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.”
I saw that I must give thanks for the times of suffering. How I react then is everything. What an honor to be given something which will shape me into someone more worthy of God’s kingdom. Suffering doesn’t save me. Persevering, keeping my eyes fixed on Abba and going forward choosing love every time, does.
But it’s better than that. A very wise monk I know, Fr. Canice, wrote in a reflection booklet, referencing what Hebrews talks about regarding Jesus becoming human to suffer with us. He says, “He is not a king who lives comfortably away from the distresses and pains of the world. Rather, He is a King who knows what it is like to be human, to be poor, and to suffer. Although it is hard to think of this sort of kingship, this is good news for us. Jesus has entered into our poverty, our pain, and our suffering, not in order to leave us there in it, but to transform it and to raise us to new life.”
I’m in tears just thinking about that! Suffering can not only cleanse me–it can literally be a vehicle to heaven. But it can only carry me if I embrace it in perseverance the way those letters to the Thessalonians describe, to make it an opportunity to love so authentically and selflessly–for there is no self-interest to distort love when you’re only loving for God’s and others’ sakes even though it hurts. And then, God will not only transform me into that someone more worthy of His kingdom, but He will transform the suffering! It may still hurt, but there will be such a sweetness to it since it will be for such a noble purpose. And how close to Him I will be through the process, because the whole point of His way of salvation is to be totally intimate with me through this beautiful cleansing process.
So now. I have a long way to go before I am content with suffering. But this step for me is huge–suddenly a door is open and I can see just a glimpse of the gift.
I am overwhelmed that God would give me this gift of a life filled with great joy and great suffering. For I see now that both sides of that coin are the greatest gifts. What an honor that He would give this to me.