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Book Club – Spiritual Combat – The Joy of Suffering

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Joy of Suffering

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The sufferings brought by the heat, or cold, or any other inconvenience, the heavy weight of grief or sorrow, may be considered as the eternal decrees of Providence which sends suffering for your own good and proportions it to your strength. In this way, God’s fatherly love and tenderness for you will become evident. It is apparent in the opportunities that He gives you to serve Him in the way that is most pleasing to Him.

Now that you are in a position to please Him more than ever, speak from the fullness of your heart and say: “It is the will of God that is accomplished in me. From all eternity God’s love has chosen me to undergo this suffering today. May He be blessed forever!” – Spiritual Combat, pg. 74-75 (TAN version; Sophia Press counterpart found on pg. 71, from When, for instance…most gracious Lord!”

I have a feeling that I’m speaking to the choir when I state the obvious: that suffering, whether minor or debilitating, should be received as a gift. I’ve read countless spiritual books that put suffering in this proper perspective, and the concept sounds beautiful and glorious. At times I’ve even been inspired enough to want to experience the cross in a “big” way. [You know, all those little annoyances throughout the day are piddly, but the BIG stuff – THAT can move mountains (read with a high degree of sarcasm).]

In reality, though, I think suffering is more like a magnificent painting. From afar it is beautiful, moving and inspirational; but when you get close, it looks like a bunch of messy paint splotches in random order – sloppy and very ugly.

Recently, our family has been experiencing the ugliness close up. Since last Tuesday, my husband Dale has suffered from chronic, excruciating pain. Apparently, he has severe torticollis, which consists of muscle spasms that pinch the nerves in his neck. Consequently, he’s been virtually immobile for a week. We’re hoping for a solution soon – all we’ve been told is that this condition can last anywhere from weeks to months. I know this comes no where close to the horrific suffering that others have experienced, but or course, all suffering is relative.

Regardless, while this experience has allowed time for much prayer and reflection, I’m sure I can speak for my husband when I say that, while we are grateful in a theoretical and mystical sort of way, in reality we would secretly prefer to return this well-intentioned gift to the store for a different size – maybe Extra Small.

Between rounds of pain medication, we’ve had several discussions about how much this has renewed our sympathy for others who have endured suffering, and the amazing examples that we’ve witnessed through our lives. Dale’s father was one of them. He passed away two years ago, after a painful battle with bone cancer.

Because of the admirable way he approached his last days, Dale’s dad has become for us an even greater hero than he was. As a dairy farmer, this man woke before the crack of dawn and worked until late at night seven days a week. Yet for all his toughness, he never forgot the Source of all strength, and was devout in his faith. In the end, despite his debilitating pain, he was joyful, grateful, loving and – most endearingly – childlike. With every shot of excruciating pain, rather than cursing, he’d call out his devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. He held fast to his rosary and prayed fervently during his waking hours. As we stepped back from the splotches, we could see that he was a magnificent portrait of Christian life (and death).

In our current political climate, leaders have set their sites on erasing all the splotches. They want to eradicate suffering on every level, to the point of promoting abortion, euthanasia and many other evils. But by erasing all the splotches, they destroy the masterpiece that God Himself created.

As long as it is approached with resignation and not bitterness, suffering can be redemptive and leads to greater union with God. As C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Mother Theresa said, “…remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” Blessed are those who suffer – how counter-intuitive in today’s society!

Well, after my little pep rally above, here we sit. In the midst of suffering. Our pom poms aren’t waving quite so high behind closed doors. But we are learning slowly but surely how to be thankful. The question is, will we stand too close to the painting and focus on all the “splotches?” Or will we appreciate the masterpiece that it truly represents? With God’s grace as the paintbrush, we’re hoping for the latter. Perhaps I should place Scupoli’s words around the house as a reminder for us and our children: “[This] is the will of God that is accomplished in me. From all eternity God’s love has chosen me to undergo this suffering today. May He be blessed forever!”

For Discussion:

1. What has brought you the most comfort in your suffering – either from a theological perspective or on the personal side (i.e. the generosity or kind words of friends and loved ones?) Note – sharing your experiences could help many of us serve others more effectively.

2. How do you explain the concept of suffering to others who may have bought into the culture’s lies?

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • As a child, I suffered being an outcast, victim of bullying from elementary school until high school. Middle school were the worst years… I wish I was able to lovingly offered up my sufferings…but instead I escaped into books…and writing poetry…

    One thing that helped me cope was that my Mom often told me that we closest to God when we suffer. I remember finding solace in that thought. It did not always feel real, yet I saw His love through my family, schoolmates and teachers.

    Another thing that helped me was when our family, would pray a decade of the Rosary every night. Mom had a prayer book, the reflection for the Agony in the Garden talked about our Lord’s loneliness in His suffering. I felt that I could relate to that. And so maybe I was closer to Him then I realized.

    It’s only now that I am beginning to understand the value of those years of hardship. Those were the years God planted the seeds which are slowly growing in me….

    Some of those poems were prayers, and being lonely made prayer to God and my guardian angel come naturally. In grade 7 He gave me the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and so now I have a devotion to meditating on His Passion. Having suffered injustice, I am now a law student in the hopes that I can help the oppressed and under-privileged in my country.

    Coincidentally, my screen name a translation of Maria Alessandria… just hope I can live up to it! 🙂

    • GAartist

      You were blessed to have had those seeds planted so early. (God bless devoted moms.) You will make a wonderful lawyer,.. for all the right reasons.

      • Thank you for your encouraging words! I am so grateful to Him for all this!

    • Bless you for sharing not only your pain, but the positive ways in which GOD is leading you to use it all! Like you, I had a miserable childhood, and felt alone and outcast, but in my case, if was mostly from illness. I was born premature and have been sick most of my life, including suffering heart attacks, stroke, seizures, 4th stage Ovarian cancer, severe liver damage, and a brief time in a coma (only five weeks and five days). Through it all, I’ve learned two things that were vital to my survival: 1 – Nothing is wasted, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, suffered or enjoyed if we offer it up to GOD and abandoned ourselves to His perfect, loving, and holy Will. He has promised us in Romans to “work all things for good,” and whether, at the time, we understand it or not, whether we see it or not, whether we even experience either the effects and benefits or not this side of Heaven, GOD can not lie. He is faithful. Which leads to the second most important thing I’ve learned through a lifetime of suffering… 2 – There is NO place, NO time, NO circumstance, NO being that can separate us from the love of GOD. We are not alone. He is with us in all ways every nano-second. And, dear Mary, as He has done with you, our merciful JESUS has shown me ways through this School of Suffering to minister to those in pain. When I was younger, I became an RN, working at the local Children’s Hospital and in the Intensive Care Unit at the Burns Institute for Crippled Children. Now that I am older, handicapped, and can no longer work outside the home, still our precious LORD has allowed me to serve Him through a prayer and support group for the handicapped, suffering, and chronically ill that will also facilitate those same people who have received to go out and minister to others. I believe the group should be called Companions of JESUS and Mary at the Foot of the Cross (CJMC); and I beg for your prayers that I may clearly hear GOD’s voice in this and all matters, and that His Will — and *only* His Will — will be accomplished and fulfilled. May GOD bless, enable, and inspire you in your quest to become a lawyer; and as you strive every moment to stay close to His Heart.

      • Thank you so much for your encouragement and reply! I admire how you were able to surrender to Him and offer it up. Thanks to His merciful love and grace, I hope I am slowly learning to do that. I promise to include you in my prayers.

  • His Song

    I think it’s so difficult to explain the concept of suffering to someone in the midst of it, unless they have the foundation of faith. That’s why it is so important to cultivate our prayer life at all times, not to wait until we are in the midst of suffering. I love the image of the “splotches” and the bigger picture…that’s
    helpful. I have read of saints who have asked for “the bigger cross” and marveled at such tremendous unity with Christ, a place that I am certainly not at…..but in the small hurts and disappointments of my life, i am learning what it means to “offer it up” as I’ve heard so often. And i do know that there is purpose in it all….my past has shown me that…and so i know that any suffering that comes my way in the future will not be useless….and that alone I trust will give me strength to endure.

  • What has brought me the most comfort? Several things: 1) I know that heaven is a place where tears and sorrow no longer reign. So, I know that there will be an ultimate end to it. 2) That I am and can better know Christ though suffering and participate in His redemptive work through suffering. 3) To the degree that we suffer in this life, purgation in the next will not be necessary. 4) To the degree that we suffer in this life, heaven will be that much more glorious.

    How do I explain it?: The only thing I can do is demonstrate the joy and love of Christ in the midst of suffering. This has caused others to ask me about it because they are curious – they want to know how it is possible. Then, the door is open to teach.

  • When I contemplate the mystery of life and God’s action in my life, I realize that all is a gift from God. As a result, suffering is a natural flow from the fact that I am alive by the grace of God. One of my most memorable stories as a former Catholic middle school Religion teacher was when I was teaching about how much God loves us to an eighth grade class. One of my students, whose mother was dying from bone cancer, jumped up out of his seat with both of his fists in the air shouting, “If God loves us so much, then why does he let my mother suffer?” Another student sitting next to him stood up and grabbed his shoulders and said, “Hey man! don’t you know that her suffering is her key to heaven!” I couldn’t have said it better. Even our suffering is a part of our journey when we see God’s hand in it. One of my greatest moments of prayer was meditating on the crucifix that hangs on the wall of our Church behind the Tabernacle. When I can unite my suffering with Jesus, I can be an authentic witness to his love, both in good times and bad.

  • You mentioned being inspired enough to want a bigger cross. Is it wrong to have such desires? Sometimes this happens to me when medidating on His Passion or even just reading about others who have such love for Him. I’m not sure what to make of it.

    • Margo – I am sure Vicki will answer shortly. Forgive me for jumping in. It is not wrong to have these desires. It is, in fact, evidence of the work of God within you. The hearts of the saints often reflected a desire to suffer for Him and His people.

      • Thank you so very much! Your words are a great comfort to me! I am so humbled by all this.

    • Vicki

      Margo – Certainly it’s not wrong to have those desires. You can consider in those moments that the Holy Spirit is working in you, and you are uniting yourself more fully to Christ.

      My comment was really only to note that we have the opportunity to unite ourselves to God’s Holy Will in the smaller things in life too. There are opportunities at virtually every moment. I think the key is to be united whether the suffering is “big” (i.e. I endure a catastrophic life event) or “small” (i.e. someone cuts in front of me at the grocery store). Each of those moments allows me to will what God wills, and to do it with great love. St. Therese of Lisieux was famous for noting that we can make small sacrifices in Big ways for God when we do “small things with great love.”

      I still have those desires periodically, and I can always tell when I’m too focused on “this” world, because I can literally feel the courage drain from me as I focus on the things that would make the suffering difficult or “uncomfortable.’ For example, suffering an illness could result in my husband’s losing his job, and our losing our home, etc. When I go there, I know I’ve left that blessed place I where I had enjoyed a special union with Our Lord. I go from being “in this world, but not of this world” to being “of this world” again. I think Spiritual Combat has the key – we are to never lose our peace, no matter what God offers us, and we can always do that if we keep in mind that we are merely in exile, and this world is not our home.

      • Thank you for your reply! Uniting myself more fully to Christ! Wow! How so very humbling and wonderful!
        Small things with great love! He is constantly reminding me of this! I often get off track and get carried away. Losing my peace…
        Thank you again! I sometimes feel so weird about these desires, I am glad to be certain that it is a great gift from Him!
        I hope your husband gets better, will pray for your family.

    • LizEst

      “God cannot inspire unreasonable desires,” St. Therese of Lisieux in her autobiography, “Autobiography of a Soul.”

      • Thank you! Am so glad this is true!

  • amy

    The first sentence is so appropriate for me right as I sit in my house without power for the 4th day now in a heat wave!Thank God we were able to get a generator. I have NOT been dealing well with those pinpricks! Thank you for reminding me what suffering is all about.

  • Jen K.

    Praying for others during my suffering is one of the best ways to “get through it” – meaning, recently I gave birth to a daughter. During my labor, I offered each contraction up for a person in my life (a list I had prepared ahead of time). It was a beautiful way to labor because I was focusing on someone else and their needs. This was not my idea but an idea of a friend who said she prayed the rosary for someone else during her labor pains. Identifying a particular person with a need greater than your own has been one way to receive “comfort” during suffering.

    • Vicki

      Jen – It certainly makes the pain feel worthwhile, doesn’t it? Purpose gives a whole new element to suffering.

    • Becky Ward

      Awesome! 🙂

  • LizEst

    Some of the greatest suffering happens in abandonment, particularly great physical suffering coupled with abandonment. Yet, if we follow Christ’s example in his passion and death, He can lead us to abundant joy, real, true, supernatural joy, a mere taste of what awaits in heaven. It is so important to learn to unite ourselves with our Lord so that, when great suffering comes, we have our oil lamps lit to go out to meet the bridegroom. Without faith, it is very difficult to understand suffering, and even death as the gateway to eternal life.

    In suffering, I like to ask the Lord, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” “Teach me, Lord, that I may do your will now and forever.” “I love you, Lord, my strength.” “Never let me be parted from you.” “Into your hands I commend my spirit. You will redeem me Lord, mighty God.”

    • Vicki

      Thanks for your comments – asking to learn from our pain is a key point.

  • I have been very excited about the reading this week. It has opened my eyes to my own weaknesses. I actually do better trusting in God during times of suffering than I do in day to day normal activity. The section titled “Face your temporal and spiritual tasks in increments” really hit home for me.”That you may not fall into the miserable bondage of sloth…” exert yourself to obey every good inspiration…doing everything at the time and in the manner” approved. “Never delay….The consequence…is…we begin to act or neglect altogether a duty that is then too irksome…. gradually the habit of sloth is formed…” Procrastination… my bad habit of sloth. This was quite an eye opener for me.
    I am able to look back on times of suffering in my life and see God’s work. I know that I would not be the person I am today without those difficult times. I have become quite confident that God does all these things for good. We are not able to see this in the midst of the suffering, but my best example of God’s Providence through suffering is this:
    My husband had worked at one company for 18 years, but was offered a position in a different company that seemd a good opportunity for my husband’s career. It didn’t turn out as we had hoped, and my husband was unemployed after only four years. My husband was down and felt he had failed as a provider for the family because of his “bad decision” to take the new job. My experience and faith told me that God had let this happen for a reason. We did not know the reason at the time, but there is a reason. I shared this with him and he continued his job hunt. About a month later he was offered a position and had to have a physical. My husband rarely went to the doctor. He had been told when he was about 21 years old that he had a lung disease and one day he would die from it. He saw no reason to see doctors for something that had no treatment. When he went to have his physical he was told that he was much worse (which he knew), but that now (20 years later) there was something that could be done. He had sugery to remove the parts of his lung that were causing his problems. The doctor said he probably doubled his life expectancy. If he had not had the surgery he would not have lived much longer. Now, God willing, I can look to the possibility of growing old with my husband that had not previously been a realistic expectation. The amazing thing is that if my husband had not taken the new job and been laid off he would never have gone to the doctor and would have died an early death. I had many tough days in the midst of all that; not knowing how things were going to turn out, but it is my great testament to God’s Divine Providence. My husband was so stubborn about going to the doctor that God had to cause him to lose his job and have a physical for re-employment so he could get his lungs fixed.
    I usually tell this story to those I meet who are suffering and are in need of enouragement. We can’t see the future. God gives us just enough light for the step that we are on. But trusting in his Divine Providence is always the best decision.

    • Vicki

      Thanks so much for sharing this story – how beautiful!

    • LizEst

      Amen, Jeanie! Sometimes that’s the scariest thing! We trust in God but would like a little bit more information than He is giving us at the time…but, He doesn’t give it to us because He wants us to learn to really trust Him, just as Jesus trusted the Father when he gave up his spirit. If he gives us what we want, or he gives it to us right away, then our faith doesn’t grow as it should because we are relying on our own understanding. Suffering is a journey of trust, an opportunity for our faith to grow.

      • Excellentone sentence summary, “Suffering is a journey of trust, an opportunity for our faith to grow.” Love it!

    • Alexandra Campbell

      Wow Jeanie! I love that story! I know, sometimes God has to be drastic to get us to listen! I think He especially needs to do things like this if He has a special mission for you. It took about a year between my getting fired unjustly from a job where my light was definitely under a bushel, to a job where I am now interacting with and serving the homeless mentally ill. God knew that I was not going to give up the comforts of a huge salary and benefits so he arranged the mystery of my job loss! I am happier that I have ever been knowing I am serving Him directly in the people that I see. I wonder what ministry God has for your husband and you! Although, it seems like you may already be doing it with telling this story to others and opening them up to the REALITY that suffering can be the biggest gift God can give us. God bless you and your family.

    • I have been working on my bad habit this week – “Face your temporal and spiritual tasks in increments” really hit home for me.”That you may not fall into the miserable bondage of sloth…” exert yourself to obey every good inspiration…doing everything at the time and in the manner” approved. “Never delay….The consequence…is…we begin to act or neglect altogether a duty that is then too irksome…. gradually the habit of sloth is formed…” Procrastination… my bad habit of sloth. –
      And I thought I would post another interesting incident I had last night related to this.
      Once I realized this issue, I also realized that I was only going to be able to break this habit out of obedience. I knew I would need someone to hold me accountable, because I can rationalize anything. Since I don’t have a spiritual director, and since as a wife I am to submit to my husband, I pulled him in to help me be obedient to do the things I do not like to do, but I must do because of my state in life at this time. The last two days I have discussed what activities I should complete each day. I only do this for the things I do not want to do and find myself procrastinating on. Boy, it hasn’t been easy, but I have been faithful to the exercise.
      Last night as I was putting away my things for the day, feeling quite accomplished for my successes of the day :), I came across a little slip of paper on which I had written a long time previously these words, “With an honest heart I have offered up all things joyfully, O my God.”
      Yikes! Double yikes! I thought ” This has been hard enough, and now I’m supposed to do it JOYFULLY!” Well I had to scream for a while. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!
      And this morning I still feel somewhat like screaming. 🙂 But, I will pick myself up and begin again. This time trying to not only be obedient, but also trying to do it joyfully.
      God bless us all as we strive to overcome our own individual passions, comforts, wants, etc.

  • Mary

    When my 17 year old son was diagnosed with cancer a few years back and I was really worried, etc, a friend said “if it’s God’s will to take him now, remember that he won’t have to face the trials and temptations of this world.” Surprisingly, that allowed me to give the whole situation over to God and accept whatever He had in store fot our family. (On a happy note, the son is in remission.)

  • Carol

    I wouldn’t call what I experience genuine suffering, it’s more like a martyrdom of paper cuts and thumbtack stabs (as a matter of fact, most of this stuff occurs at work–hmm–maybe that’s why they call it “Work!”; remember Genesis, “earn your bread by the sweat of your brow”?))

    I know that I’m operating from a place of God’s grace when I can rise to the occasion and deal with it with good humor, a sense of proportion, and gratitude. Yes, gratitude: God has placed me in this job because He knows I can do it well. I also know that I need to do some serious spiritual tuning up when I operate from a place of whining, griping, gossiping, and proclaiming my own righteousness compared to colleagues (especially when talking to the boss.) I’ve been in both places frequently, and may God forgive me for the numerous times I’ve acted in the latter way.

    When I’m doing what the world refers to as “acting like a martyr,” I have to recall that the REAL martyrs went to their fate with the joy of Christ’s kingdom in their hearts, and sometimes on their lips. St. Lawrence’s words, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side,” always leave me in awe at his holy humor in the face of being grilled alive.

    I don’t know who said it, but I have heard several times through the years the saying, “Suffering happens. Misery is optional.” God has, and continues to give me each day, the grace to avoid being miserable, should I choose to accept His mission.

    I’m in a rather knotty marriage, and if I chose to focus on the conundrums of living with someone who is hell-bent on being as hedonistic and narcissistic as his resources allow, I would be in a psychiatrist’s office. However, I’ve learned to grab the gusto that God places in my path every single day: The enthusiasm of my little dog when I return home from work. A delicious meal, prepared by my own two hands (I’m trying a new grilled shrimp, eggplant, onion, and tomato recipe for the first time this evening.) The splendor of the sunrise or sunset (talk about masterpieces, each day two brand new, never to be duplicated ones,) the charm of a child’s smile, the guy who lets me change lanes in a traffic jam, all these are evidence to me of God’s loving providence. Focusing on the daily little gifts that I can see helps me greet life’s annoyances with more equamity than I would be able to muster on my own.

    To me, though, I am most grateful that God did endow me with a fairly healthy sense of humor. Humor, human, and humility all have the same root–humus, “of the earth.” Humor, most especially, the ability to laugh at my own shortsightedness, peccadillos, and shortcomings, while patiently trying to work on them, has been one of the greatest gifts that the Lord chose to give me. I thank Him daily for it, and I suspect that He must have a great sense of humor as well.

    There are a few other quotes that I think of often when the road seems drearily annoying:

    St. Teresa of Avila: “God spare me from sour-faced saints” (or something like that,)

    Bl. Teresa of Calcutta: “I know that You never give me more than I can handle, Lord, but I wish You would stop having such great confidence in me,” (again, or something like that,)

    The abovementioned quote attributed to St. Lawrence,

    St. Francis: “It is in dying that one is born to eternal life,”

    And finally, Sister St. Anthony (a grade school teacher of mine,): “Offer it up!”

    How I would explain the concept of suffering to someone who has bought into cultural lies? I would suggest to them that if they really think that this life is supposed to be nothing but a thrill a minute they ought to consider psychiatric help! Everyone suffers. The fact of suffering is one thing that unites us in our humanity. Learn to suffer well. Anything else is delusional.

    • LizEst

      Carol,

      I recommend to you a nice little book “The Humor of Jesus” by Henri Cormier, CJM (originally published in 1909; my copy is 1977). Contained within are some great insights you might appreciate and enjoy.

    • Alexandra Campbell

      Carol, where do you live? I want to hang out with you!

      I lost my 14 year marriage that saw us raise his four daughters (all under age 6 when I became step-mother) and our two sons, now only ages 14 and 12. My ex husband had a “mid life crisis”, an affair, etc. He now lives with the “other woman.” Thanks be to God I am happier without this narcissistic spend-a-holic who was a wonderful, giving, self sacrificing, sweetheart for most of the duration of the marriage. I was the controlling brat who really did not know how to be a Christian wife. I now see that while Satan really did get in there with him, in that he is lost from God for now, I have been set free to live much more fully for God. If He wants to restore the marriage I am open to that but meanwhile I am striving to learn virtue and how to laugh at myself more. Funny how all this horror of divorce, and the suffering was huge as I thought at the time that God had abandoned me, happened immediately after we had our marriage convalidated by the Church in 2008 (after 12 years). I could probably get an annulment, but I don’t think God wants me married, except to Him!

  • GHM_52

    Our Lord gave me the great gift of allowing me to take care of my Dad through his illness until the very momemt of death on the Monday following Resurrection Sunday on April 9, 2007 at 7:30 am. He granted us many other incredible gifts, but I recall a specific “double” consolation. One night, I was just looking at Dad. He looked so frail; bones barely covered by a thin layer of skin, he was in his hosital bed, eyes closed, barely breathing. As I watched that man, whom I loved to distraction, so devastatingly felled, I truly felt that a sword had sliced through my heart. As I felt this, I thought about our Holy Mother and I looked up at a pictur of Our Lafy of Fatima that Mom had affixed to the wall next to Dad’s bed. When I saw our Mother’s gentle, suffering eyes, out of nowhere I thought: “Oh! Mother Mary is suffering with me at the foot of rhe cross of my Dad just as she stood suffering at the foot of the Most Holy Cross of her Other Son, Jesus!” The sensation of consolation was so strong it brought me to my knees…You see, I had suffered for years over my lack of devotion for Mother Mary and I had prayed over that. So, in one clean sweep, my Lord and my God had given me double consolation: the knowledge that I was not suffering alone, but with none other than Most Holy Mother Mary and the beginning of an ongoing devotion for her. This unforgettabke gift came about in the midst and thanks to my experience of great suffering over my Dad’s deterioration. So, even though in my infant Faith I still fear suffering, I KNOW that I do not suffer alone and that great, splendorous, out of the ordinary lasting gifts come directly as a result from suffering.

    • Becky Ward

      Beautiful Story! 🙂

    • Vicki

      This is a lovely story – thanks so much for sharing it!

  • $1650412

    I have found comfort in suffering in learning that what I was going through was the privilege of a teeny tiny sip from Christ’s chalice that He was allowing me- that He was the ONLY One who had really already ‘felt my pain’, and in reality was letting me experience a little of His— and again, that it was a great condescension of love and companionship on His part. And the second thing I learned that helped me, in theory -(I am still struggling through the challenges of those miniscule opportunities He can trust me with in practice)-is that if I love Him and desire unity with Him, then I really do want to join Him in the most profound of His experiences, including His passion. I think because I am a wretched and selfish sinner I can never give Him a truly pure expression of being available to Him and united to Him in His joy and suffering, but I pray for the grace to have a greater capacity to be filled with Him and to really be His faithful and true friend, companion and spouse- in the means through which His will for my life ordains. ( That sounds more lofty than I meant it to- I was interrupted typing about a bazillion times by my duty-read:children!- I was trying to say that a renewed perspective oriented toward being closer to Jesus has really helped me with the first part of moving toward embracing my cross more fruitfully!)

  • What an incredible thing to read at this point in my life… Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Especially for all of the comments too… This year I have had to endure much suffering… (physical, spiritual, professional, psychological, financial) and I really have been struggling to make some sense of it all… This article and these comments have really helped me…. look at my situation with a bit of distance. Thank you so very very much.

    • $1650412

      Bless you Dorothy!

  • GHM_52

    As for point #2, it depends on the company. If I am speaking to a lapsed Christian or non-Christian, I use general rational arguments. For instance, I remind the person of the factual truth that repeated suffering throughout one’s lifetime is inevitable (I give a number of examples). Then I ask the person whether he/she would rather live under an atheistic philosophy providing no meaning or consolation for suffering, or under a philosophy where suffering was never borne in isolation and had infinite redeeming value not only for oneself, but for the whole world. Most people choose the second option. It is at this point that real discussion begins regarding Christian suffering. Sometimes, after the discussion, some are still doubtful (what if I try to believe that and it ends being false?). To that, my standard answer is: “What have you got to lose? You will suffer anyway. Is not Christianity a more consoling way to live?”. I usually see signs of hope by that point…At least, I see signs that a seed has been planted. If, on the other hand, I am conversing with Christians, I prefer to discuss scenes from the Most Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. When Christians are reminded of Our Lord’s real horrific sufferings of flesh and spirit, they often feel their sufferings pale in comparison!

    • Vicki

      Thanks for your comments – I’ll keep them in mind!

  • Mikosmommy

    1. That God “wants to lead those whom He greatly loves by the path of tribulation–and the more He loves us the greater the tribulation…” St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, Chapter 18. I see she was writing about contemplatives in this passage , but this is so relevant in general. He must love me a lot 😉
    2. There really isn’t any good way to explain in detail without folks looking at you like you have two heads.

    • Becky Ward

      RE: #2 – You’re in good company here! 🙂

  • Robert Kraus

    I admit I feel inexperienced in contemplating suffering as many of you. I’ve read books like this that lay out the idea of redemptive suffering, yet it’s hard to make the transition from mind and mental grasping to heart and acceptance. Everyone’s theological maturity is so impressive to read and I hope I can get to that point myself with God’s help.

  • Mary@42

    Suffering as a salfivic Grace…….how do we turn our sufferings, especially major ones into Saving Graces….? Saint Faustina Kowaska – the Secretary and
    Jesus’ Eucharistic Apostle of His Divine Mercy – gives us this Lesson very well through the great physical sufferings and Spiritual torments she underwent and the many souls she saved by uniting them to the Sufferings and Passion of Jesus Christ.

    Our only son was ill for 14 solid years. A cheerful, lovable, active young James, only 24 years, was wrongly diagonized in 1982, as schizophrenic. We made the mistake of not seeking a second opinion. And so, we watched slowly, painfully as our only son became withdrawn, slowed down, and absent-minded. When one spoke to him one sensed his mind was far, far away. We accepted the Cross and reconciled ourselves to face the long haul. We accepted he was God’s child… we were only caretakers for Him. It was not easy and we agonized as we watched him suffering silently.

    With the medication, the growth of the Brain Tumour – which was actually what he was suffering from – was considerably slowed down. When he began to regain his memory and began to be more aware of himself and his surroundings, he was again able to function almost normally, although we knew he would remain ill for the rest of his life and would never recover. Yet, even when he was better, and one could see he was in great pain, he never once complained. He remained calm, serene and humble as before.

    The second tragedy hit our Family when my husband fell ill with Cancer of the Liver in 1994. For the two weeks he was in Hospital, where I stayed with him day and night, he was in such excruciating pain that tears would run down his cheeks. All I could do was to pray to Jesus to take him quickly and spare him more pain. I loved him so much – he who had never been sick even for a single day in his entire life. But with all that pain, he was so calm and never once complained. His strength, knowing death was near was amazing. Instead of thinking about himself, he was instead, encouraging me that all will be well with us after he has gone and he would not forget us. His encouragement and calm amid such great suffering taught my three daughters and I how to accept God’s Will. In turn, God wrought such a great Miracle for him for which we daily thank Him to this day.

    When we decided he comes home, after the Priest celebrated the first Holy Mass at Home and Daddy received Holy Communion, his pain just went away. Jesus had answered my Prayers!!!!!! For the next three days of his life on this earth, he was painless. The Third day,during Holy Communion, the Priest asked me that we share the Viaticum with Daddy. Then he just said he would leave his Briefcase because he was to come the next day for the Holy Mass.

    I came to realize what had happened only three weeks after the Funeral that Father had, in fact, left the Blessed Sacrament in the House. So, Jesus, decided to keep Vigil with Daddy and He took him peacefully from my arms at 5.30 am. on 22nd January, 1994. This Miracle makes me feel sure that Daddy is truly in Heaven and is looking after us just as he kept on telling us those two weeks he was terminally ill.
    I thank God daily for this Miracle He bestowed on my beloved Daddy, who was the best husband any woman has ever had for 37 and a half years.

    Now with Daddy gone, my daughters and I had to care for James alone. It was not easy. Three years after Daddy’s death James was admitted in Hospital and it was then it was discovered that he had all along been suffering from a Brain Tumour. By then, of course, it was too late. Again James – in great pain – never ever complained and suffered stoically and serenly as he had done all those 14 years. He died peacefully on 22nd December, 1996.

    His humble acceptance of a debilitating and fatal and painful illness without complaint taught us a lesson, which we only came to realize later.

    Now, a widow these 18 years, I asked God to guide me on how He wants me so serve Him. First, he sent me to work at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa for Ten years. When my Lower Disk Degenerative Disease cropped up in 1999, which forced me to retire prematurely on medical grounds, I remembered how James and Daddy bore their sufferings with humble acceptance. I have, therefore, learned to accept the aches and pains caused by my back problem by remembering that Jesus fell Three Times under the heavy Cross of my sins. Here, He teaches me that when I fall – which I do, oh so often, I run to Him in His Tribunal of Mercy with a truly repentant heart and sorrowful soul and confess my sins. He receives me, listens to me and reading my soul as only God can, forgives me, gives me absolution and Blessings to strengthen me to fight my sinful human nature, the temptations and my sinful tendencies which keep tripping me up. This is a lifelong Spiritual Warfare one has to struggle with daily. As an Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy – where He sent me so serve Him after I left CUEA – He reminds me never to wallow in self-pity but to always offer Him my sufferings and unite them with His Passion, so that He can save souls. In turn, I pray to Him daily never to leave my side because “the shadows of the oncoming night of my life are gathering on the Western Sky”. My daily Prayer to Him is : My Jesus, come when You are ready and make me ready when You come. Amen.

    • LizEst

      What a beautiful testimony, Mary. Thank you for sharing this. May God bless you now and in the time ahead as you seek to continue to do His holy will.

      • Mary@42

        Bless you, LizEst. Let us continue to pray for one another. That way, God will never leave our side or allow us to forget His Unfathomable Love for us, His wretched sinners, for whom He died such a horrific death to ensure we remain worthy of that Divine Sacrifice of Love and Mercy.

        • LizEst

          Yes, I prayed for you at Mass today.

    • $1650412

      Hugs Mary@42!

      • Mary@42

        Hugs to you, too, beloved JoFlemmings. And a shower of Blessings from Jesus and unceasing prayers for you and your loved ones from His Immaculate Mother Mary, our Mother.

    • Vicki

      Mary, When I read your comments from the last post, I was so moved by your testament to the sacrament of marriage. Now, you’ve moved me beyond words. Thanks so much for sharing your story – you will always be in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Jeanette

    There are many kinds of suffering. We may be in a situation where we come in contact with someone who we feel consistently ‘rubs us the wrong way’ like a spouse or family member etc. and we may pray to be free of those irritations. But, usually God uses people or situations like ‘sandpaper’ to rub off our coarse edges so that we become the saint that God wants us to be. We must walk in the way of love by praying for those people or those situations and by the practice of virtues…this can be heroic! But through all of life’s sufferings, we have our Lord God to comfort us. Thanks be to God!

    • LizEst

      “Blessed be the God of all things for sanctifying His elect through one another … He often uses a diamond to polish another diamond. How important is this thought for our consolation, that we may never be scandalized at the petty persecutions which good men sometimes occasion against each other.” St. John of the Cross

      • Jeanette

        A beautiful insight! Thank you.

    • Becky Ward

      Great observation! This is one reason that we don’t have to wear ‘hair shirts’ and things like that anymore…….we may BE someone’s ‘hair shirt’, and they ours. 🙂

      • Though I am not admitting anything – wearing hair shirts is still a valid form of self-mortification.

        • LizEst

          Wow! I didn’t think they still made them…but, I looked it up on-line. Sure enough!

          • Becky Ward

            I don’t think this item will be on any of my ‘wish lists’. 😉

          • LizEst

            Ha ha Becky! Perhaps there are some here would want go in together to get a group rate!!

            Wait! What’s that sound? Oh! That’s the roar of silence from the crowd!

          • $1650412

            I’ll take one!

          • LizEst

            So, I count two of us! Ha! Perhaps they will arrive with a copy of Dan’s book!!

          • Scupoli will cover this later. Physical mortifications are helpful for battles with specific kinds of sin… That said, interior mortification is always beneficial. The key with the latter is to seek to be near those who cause interior challenges…

            BTW – the Carmelites in France make hair shirts. I called them and they indicated that since you are such a blessing to so many people on this site that you can get a discount. 🙂

          • LizEst

            Just got back from friends who stuffed us, as always. So, I could probably use the shirt! Ha! Happy 4th of July to you and all who celebrate it.

        • Becky Ward

          Really?! Well……to those who choose to do this, you have my admiration. For myself – at least at this point of my journey – I get enough irritation from me, myself, and I! But I’ll keep this in mind…..:)

          • abandon56

            Love this, Becky. 🙂

  • Alexandra Campbell

    I shall try to be concise, for once. What has brought me the most comfort in suffering (loss of marriage, loss of career, loss of father last year on Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, July 22) is the Catholic understanding of redemptive suffering. When I was getting “let go” on Good Friday 2011, right during the meeting where it was happening, I was able, due to God’s grace in picking such an obvious date, to look up to heaven and say “Really? Lord, really?..Ok, Lord, since this is happening on Good Friday, I must believe that you are allowing this and that it is for my ultimate good.” I was able to fully offer the sadness and shock of an unjust suffering to God in the moment it was happening for the first time in my life and it was truly a Blessed experience. I must stress the fact that the value of the suffering was really linked with the fact that it was COMPLETELY UNJUST. When I suffer for my sins, it seems more like justice. He has now restored me in a different job where I know I am being used to minister to the “poorest of the poor,” the often homeless, mentally ill.
    Only the Catholic Church has this understanding and allows one to share in a bit of what Christ was doing on the cross. After all, it wasn’t merely the fact of His death that bought our salvation, but the fact that as God made man, he freely offered His human life to purchase our eternal life. Now when any suffering comes my way I am able to rejoice at the privilege of being conformed to His image on the cross.
    Hair shirt? Like some commented, I don’t really need one being in the world as I am, but if I ever get to fulfill my dream of becoming a cloistered nun, I will sign up! I have a feeling God wants me out here though. On the other hand, we are exposed to more worldly temptations out here in the world, and I do seem to be in love with comfort and even luxury sometimes, so maybe the hair shirt would be a good idea! I’m definitely going to google that! 🙂

    • Becky Ward

      Isn’t it awesome when we get to experience a little taste of the mystery of Christ’s passion? Injustice is a big one for me…I see so much of it, and I scream inside, “It’s not RIGHT!”………and then I see an image of Our Lord being led away after being mocked and beaten and crowned with thorns…….absolutely innocent, and yet God allowed it to happen…….and my anger and frustration wither and die, leaving me able to give the situation to Jesus, and pray.

      • LizEst

        Certainly is maddening Becky, isn’t it?

        Sometimes justice is mercy. At other times, it is not. So, it helps me to keep in mind that “judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13).

  • Sheri

    Through suffering, God gave us children to love and raise! While some people complain or wish they were doing something other than raising children, I couldn’t imagine my life being any better! Through offering our suffering up to God, we can master pain by praying through it!

  • Bill

    The most comfort I find in my suffering is love. The loving presence of someone who cares is the greatest gift. Also the constant nourishment of daily prayer. In fact as I read what I wrote I am reminded that for many many years following a painful divorce l sought solace in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which is being in the presence of Love. I also found great solace at various monasteries, which were genuine loving communities.

  • Saintsdancenrome

    He held fast to his rosary and prayed fervently during his waking hours. He was granted graces by his prayers to endure such suffering. Suffering is only edured for long periods by God’s grace alone, if God withholds such times of prayer, Rosary, reflection & his grace we suffer more & not able to endure till the end. Even enduring such long suffering can be a GRACE~ (gift from God) not something we do but is given to us as a gift~ God should be glorified for allowing you to hold fast till the end. Long trials I am always the worst at. I give up & feel the weight of my worthlessnes, to the point I say I Quit!

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