By Lou S.
God allows all things, including suffering, so that they may be used for our sanctification and to grow in virtue and to glorify Him.
This is a truth many non-Catholics do not understand and therefore, their suffering is empty and worthless. One of the first things many Catholics do in the morning is to make their daily offering to God, which includes offering up their sufferings.
“Oh my Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee all of my works, pains, joys and sufferings of the day...”
We can also offer up our specific sufferings as they occur, such as when you stub your toe. When we offer up our suffering to God we accomplish several things:
Suffering unites us with Christ on His cross.
Suffering can be offered to God for our own intentions (reparations, increase in a virtue, etc.) or for the intentions of others (a spiritual act of charity).
Suffering increases our sympathy and empathy towards others who are suffering (our compassion increases).
Suffering is a character builder and will lead to an increase in the virtues of patience, humility, fortitude and other virtues.
Your personal suffering affords the opportunity for others to increase in virtue, such as those giving you emotional and/ or physical comfort and support (acts of spiritual and corporeal charity).
Saint Paul writes: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
So, we see that we suffer not for ourselves, but ultimately for the sake of Christ, who suffered everything for us. Therefore, is it not fitting that we should be prepared to suffer everything in return? When we do so with peaceful resignation to God's will and realize just how little our suffering is compared to what we truly deserve, it can make the act of suffering a genuinely joyful occasion.
“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” ~ Seneca
While the body may recoil at the notion of suffering we must subject our bodily passions to our intellect. Look at every opportunity to suffer (mental or physical), big or small, as an occasion to unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ as a type of living sacrifice, to strengthen our will, to increase in virtue and the opportunity to carry out acts of charity.
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” ~ Romans 12:1
Many souls have completely skipped purgatory and went straight to Heaven for having willingly and joyfully suffered for Christ. They paid their temporal debt here on earth so they didn't have to do it in purgatory.
“That I may know him (Christ) and the power of his Resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” ~ Phil. 3:10-11
We can take a lesson from these saints and follow suit as best we can. Eventually we will develop good habits involving our daily sufferings and offerings. With diligence, we can hope to at least cut our time in purgatory to something much shorter than what it would have been.
In light of the Gospels and the benefits of suffering, we should always remind ourselves daily to thank God for all the things He has given us, including our sufferings, as many times, suffering is the most efficient way to expiate our sins in this life. Suffering is truly a gift from God.