REFLECTION: Let’s learn how to suffer PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 July 2014 13:31

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

Suffering is unavoidable in our life. Anyone who thinks otherwise is certainly out of touch with reality and is going through the worst kind of suffering that has no meaning, when, in fact, with Christ, suffering is literally dripping with meaning and redemptive power.

We need to learn how to suffer. The massive problem we have now is precisely that many of us do not know how to suffer. We complain and cry even at the slightest touch of suffering. We become sad and fall into a hard case of depression. Self-pity and idle passivity can dominate us, sinking us into a spiral of problems and

predicaments.

Or we can grasp at straws, going to all sorts of useless defense mechanisms and deceptive forms of escapism like sex, drugs, extreme forms of sports and activism, frivolous entertainment, rationalizing philosophies, ideologies, lifestyles, etc. We can in vain try to erase or ignore subjectively what objectively will always be with us in our life.

We have to learn how to suffer. It’s an art and skill that is available if we only care to notice. It’s all there as clear as noonday, its cause and meaning precisely defined, its antidote and vaccine abundantly provided. Our Christian faith sheds tremendous light on this mystery of our life. Christ is showing us the way.

Our faith, the ultimate source of truth about ourselves, tells us that suffering is due to sin, to the misuse of our freedom, to our disobedience to the will of God who created us to be his image and likeness, to be children of his, sharing in his very own life.

Yet, in spite of that, God our Father, who is all goodness and the very fount of love, did not and does not cease to care for us. And while allowing us to suffer the consequences of our sin and disobedience, he also showed and continues to show us up to now how to tackle suffering in our earthly life.

Toward this end, God did nothing less than to send his son to us. The son became man and took on all our sinfulness, culminating this mission with his death on the cross. In so doing and in resurrecting, Christ converts our suffering due to sin into a way of our redemption.

All this redemptive work of Christ is sacramentalized in the Church, perpetuating it “in vivo” till the end of time!

The secret is simply to identify ourselves with Christ who identified himself with his Father whenever we suffer in any form, physical, mental, emotional, psychological, moral, spiritual, etc.

This act of identifying ourselves with Christ is simply reprising in ourselves what Christ himself did—believing and following his Father’s will, ‘Not my will but yours be done.’

We have to make a deep act of faith to be able to do this. This act is, of course, a matter of grace, which God actually gives us in abundance, the constant of the equation, and also of our effort, our correspondence, which is often the problematic, variable part of the equation.

We have to learn to acquire the proper attitude and skill in dealing with our earthly suffering. We have to learn how to suffer in silence, and even with joy and elegance, knowing its true meaning and value, and confident that God never sends us suffering that is beyond our capacity.

What may appear to us as an unbearable suffering is actually a manifestation of our separation from Christ. This is simply because with Christ, everything is bearable. We are told that charity, which is the very essence of God, of Christ, is patient and that it can bear all things and can conquer all things.

We just have to realize more deeply that our attitude toward suffering should not be confined to its natural dimension—material, physical, biological, social, economic, etc. With that frame of mind, we can only go so far in bearing suffering.

Our attitude and reaction to it should rather be based on the spiritual and the supernatural. That way, we put the whole phenomenon of human suffering in its proper context and perspective.

So to bear suffering well, we need to pray. We need to have recourse of the sacraments. We need to train ourselves in the ways of self-denial, mortification and sacrifice and the development of virtues. We need to deepen our faith by studying and assimilating well the doctrine of our faith.

Unless we become spiritual and not simply carnal, there’s actually no other way to learn to suffer properly.