It’s hard to understand why I would tell you that suffering is a gift. I am sure you think I just don’t understand what you’re going through today, and in a sense you are correct. Although I have suffered much in my own life, that suffering isn’t exactly the same as your own. We all suffer in our own unique way.
I want you to understand that I have struggled to make sense out of suffering, too. There was a time in my life when I saw my suffering the way that you do now - as proof that God didn’t really love me and proof that I wasn’t lovable. I thought God was punishing me, and I rejected suffering for all those reasons. I would have thought you were crazy if you had told me then that suffering was a gift. I probably also would have told you that if suffering was a gift, I would like a receipt so I can return it or exchange it for something better.
What changed my mind and my heart was God’s voice. It was January of 2008. I was the only employed person in my household, and I was looking at being unemployed in just two weeks’ time. Our rent was late, our utilities were about to be shut off, I had to walk an hour one way just to get to work, and everything seemed to be going wrong. On the encouragement of a friend, I did something I had never done before and prayed to God about where I was. I carefully laid out every problem I was facing and every fear and concern that I had and told Him that these problems were giant for me but that I knew He was bigger than they were. I put my trust in Him.
It took about two hours. I was in the middle of working on a project when I heard God tell me that the suffering I was undergoing was not meant as a punishment. It was a gift. It was designed to allow me to repay the debts I had accrued through my decisions to sin with a smaller amount here on Earth than was actually due in eternity so that at the end of my life I could enter Heaven and become the saint I wanted to be. That day was the first step on a long journey that God would lead me through to understanding the nature of suffering and its role in the salvation of souls.
I am writing this book for you, my friend, because I love you. I want you to understand that God loves you, too. Suffering isn't proof that God doesn't love you. It is because He loves you so very much that He allows you to suffer. However, I will leave you with this reminder: One breath past the cross lies paradise.
'When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.' --St. Sebastian Valfre
This post is the first of several I am going to do on suffering. Please join me tomorrow for the next post, Why God Allows Suffering.