Monday, June 3, 2013

Suffering Is a Gift: Suffering Is a Great Teacher

There is so much to be learned from suffering that a single chapter does not do the topic justice. As there are many other topics of equal importance, though, a single chapter will have to suffice. Out of God’s great love, He gifted mankind with free will so that man might be able to choose to love God in return. This leaves man free to choose also to reject God’s love and to pursue selfish aims. This gift of free will is one with tremendous power to change and to shape the world for good or for bad. It would be careless to allow that kind of power in the world without also placing in the world limitations, or consequences, and thus encourage man to use it for its correct purposes rather than as a weapon of mass destruction.

To those who would say that God could simply have instructed each individual person and been done with it, such a direct method was rendered impossible by the choices made by our first parents. When Adam and Eve entered into the first sin, the first choice not to love God, they damaged creation and changed it. God could no longer walk with them directly. It would have killed them for Him to do so. Thus from that point forward He had to deal indirectly with His people, through prophets and priests and saints. He was wise enough to foresee a time when He would not be able to directly instruct mankind, and would need to encourage His children to make wiser choices without His direct help.

The consequences for the choice to reject love are known as suffering. Suffering is pain and sorrow and grief. When we sin, it is not only ourselves that are afflicted by suffering, but like a pebble tossed into the surface of a lake, the suffering ripples outward impacting the wider world as well. This happens in part because all human beings and living things are connected together. What hurts one inevitably hurts another. There is nothing we do or can do that ever strictly affects ourselves. It also happens that way because we will often do for another what we will not do for ourselves. For love of a child, we might give up an addiction that we otherwise would not because we see that the child will be harmed by our addiction.

If it seems cruel to allow the innocent to be punished for the crimes of the guilty, know that this is one of the ways that suffering instructs us. When the innocent are caused pain by the sins of the guilty, they are encouraged to seek help, to speak out against the sin, or to flee the situation. Thus, the sinner’s decisions to sin eventually become known to others and the sinner is forced to confront the damage done by the choices he or she has made. Society itself is motivated to forcibly stop the sinner from continuing or else to place social pressure on the sinner to stop sinning.

It is not God’s will that we should suffer, but it is His will that we should come to regard sin in all its ugliness as the terrible thing that it truly is and to do all that we can to avoid it no matter the cost. Human nature being stubborn and prone to lying to ourselves about the seriousness of our choices, suffering is the swiftest and most expedient method of accomplishing that goal.

Suffering, whether of mind or body, is permitted so that we might be alerted to a problem that needs fixing. In the body, we suffer so that we might be motivated to make whatever changes must be made to fix the problem and avoid it in the future. In the mind, we suffer so that we might be encouraged to examine our lives and find the source of our unhappiness, and then to seek out a cure. This cure quite often involves growing closer to Christ, the source of all joy, and learning from Him how to bear our sufferings in such a way that they become blessings for others.

Does it shock you to think that the very thing we strive to avoid most can become the instrument by which our world becomes blessed? It shouldn't. Suffering is meant to be a blessing, not a burden, though whether we see it as such is a measure of our level of gratitude for the work God is doing in our lives. When we suffer cheerfully, when we offer up our sufferings as gifts of love to God, we sanctify our sufferings and transform them from burdens to blessings. We can offer up our suffering to God as little gifts of love and ask Him to then take those sufferings and use them as instruments of His redemptive work. How much good can come when a soul is willing to suffer a little and offer that suffering as prayer to God!

“One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And there numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings."--Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, #153

I hope you have enjoyed today's reading. Please join me tomorrow as I delve into Suffering Is a Marvelous Guide

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