Saturday, July 30, 2011

Suffering Has Meaning

I am certain that my suffering has meaning.  This in itself is something that amazes me. Even more, it astounds me that I know that it is even possible to be cheerful, and to have profound peace in the midst of great sufferings.  I do not arrive at this knowledge from the natural world.  Where does it come from?

I belong to a people—God’s People, the Church—where there are witnesses to this great peace and cheerful acceptance of suffering, not only in the lives of the saints, but even in the lives of some people that I know (and what a blessing those people are to me).  It is faith that enables me to recognize this, and to know that it is really true.  I know that the beginning of this peace is to suffer with the awareness of God’s presence and His plan for my life.  The road to a peaceful and cheerful acceptance of God’s plan passes through the practice of patience and trust.  “Jesus, I trust in You” begins as a prayer (a prayer that in a certain sense says, “Jesus I am afraid.  I do not know how to trust.  Give me the grace to trust in You.”).  The practice of this prayer develops into a habit, and out of this habitual prayer God forms in us and with us (slowly) the Christian virtues, especially humility and courage.  And so I pray to grow more actively aware of the truth that God’s Mercy defines my life.

To be honest, I do not know how much I understand all this concretely.  I could write a book on the “theology of suffering,” but how much do I really understand in a vital way?  I see it through a dark glass, a very dark glass.  So I pray.  I offer everything to God in the morning.  Then I grunt through the day, feeling lousy, and being grouchy toward my loved ones (perhaps I am not that bad; you will have to ask my wife if you really want to know). Then at night, I examine the worst of the day’s mess, make the act of contrition, and I really mean it.  But the next day is pretty much the same.  Will I ever grow beyond this level?  I pray that God may sustain hope in my heart.  In faith and hope I know that it is possible, that God’s grace can make something out of my nothingness, and therefore I must not—I will not—be discouraged.

From my book Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy
(click here to order: