Faith and suffering PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 June 2016 13:29

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

Suffering, in any form, has to be viewed from the perspective of faith. It should be taken out from an overly human outlook that restricts it to its purely negative, painful and destructive character. There’s a lot more to our suffering than what our senses and our reasoning unaided by faith can cope and discover.

When we suffer, let’s be quick to see and go through it with Christ, who said that “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9,23) With that outlook, we are convinced that any suffering is always for our own good—for our purification, strengthening, conversion, etc.

First, we have to understand that our suffering was not meant for us in the beginning of our existence. Nor is it meant for our end. It came about as consequence of our mishandling our freedom, that supreme gift God our Father and Creator endowed us with at our first creation in Adam and Eve.

We have to make that qualification of “first creation,” because our creation is actually an ongoing affair that is played out in stages all throughout time.

There’s the first creation by God the Father of Adam and Eve, endowing us with the best of gifts like our freedom, then our second creation in Jesus to introduce the crucial correcting element of the cross in our life once we misuse our freedom, and the third stage which is our personal sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The business of creation takes the whole of time and, in fact, covers the entirety of our existence, since it involves our very existence itself. For as long as we exist, our creation continues to take place.

From the point of view of God who lives in eternity, this whole process is just but a blink to him. “One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Pt 3,8) Of course, from our point of view, all this process covers the whole of time.

Back to our freedom, we have to understand that it’s that gift that makes us image and likeness of God. Together with our intelligence, it enables us to mirror God’s greatness is us. With God’s grace, it lets us enter God’s life itself, sharing that divine life and perfecting our ultimate identity.

We are not mere creatures like the others that come from God and belong to him, but do not participate in the very intimate life of God. We are the masterpiece of his creation, charged to be stewards of the whole of creation.

But all the goodness that our freedom gives us turned sour when we abused it. As a consequence, the good things are now replaced with bad things that make us suffer. This is the origin of our suffering that continues to grow, morph and spread in ways we cannot account anymore.

Still, God has not abandoned us, and instead has undertaken a very complicated plan to recover us, sending his Son to become man and effect our own redemption through the Cross.

With the Cross, he has made the very cause of our downfall also as the very means of our salvation. The Cross is where sin is transformed to grace, death to life, darkness to light.

And thus, now with the help of the Holy Spirit, we have to understand the true value of our cross—all the sufferings we have to endure in this life. Let’s not waste too much time figuring out why we suffer and how we can overcome it. These we will always do somehow, but we should not stop there.

Every suffering we have should be an invitation for us to go back to Christ, to be converted again, that is, to identify ourselves with him through the work of the Holy Spirit, so we can effect in our mortal flesh that very transformation that took place in Christ, who died and rose from the dead.

This is the challenge we have—how to go beyond mere human considerations of our suffering so as to savor its ultimate religious value. We need to develop the skill to escape from the self-focusing dynamics of suffering that only leads to a dead-end when considered only humanly, to be able to hitch ourselves with the saving dynamics of Christ’s suffering.

Are we just contented with complaining and groaning and moaning when we suffer? Or do we start as soon as we can to enter, through faith, into the more glorious dimensions that our suffering offers?