There are times when I feel as though Christianity speaks about suffering so much. Times like that, it is not a sermon about more suffering that I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear about healing and God’s providence. I wanted to know that I could pray and ask God for some relief from pain.
Is Christianity all about suffering? Why become a Christian when all you could ever look forward to is a life of suffering and sacrifice?
Perhaps those questions miss the point, but they are frank questions I sometimes ask in difficult times. Deep within me, however, I know the truth. And the truth just gets covered up by my weaknesses and tears.
The Value of Christian Suffering
Christianity emphasizes suffering, but only in the light of love. That is just what Jesus did. He suffered for us out of great love for all of us. And we are called to do the same.
Other people may then go on asking what difference does it make to be a Christian when one would suffer so much? Isn’t it better to enjoy life and not be burdened with so many things?
Here again, such questions miss the point. Everyone suffers. Christians and Non-Christians all go through difficult times. But they suffer differently. And once people know the difference, perhaps they could see why the path of the cross is sweeter and lighter even in the midst of suffering.
Here are just some of the differences between Christian suffering and sinful suffering:
1. Christian suffering is not without hope.
While sinners seek only the pleasures of this life, they could hope for no other. After earthly death, there is no more. On the other hand, Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead. Even if a Christian suffers every injustice here on earth, there is still hope for a better and eternal life in heaven.
2. Christian suffering is not without faith
While sinners don’t believe in a God from whom everything in life finds its meaning, Christians believe in God who gives purpose to life. There is a belief that things happen for a reason. We may not understand now, but we will see God’s greater plan later on.
3. Christian suffering is not without God’s perfect love
The Christian may suffer immensely, but he or she does not suffer alone. God is always with them. Uniting their suffering with that of Christ’s sacrifice, they offer everything out of love.
4. Christian suffering is not burdened with the weight of sin
It is true that Christians still sin, but those who persist in the right path are continuously forgiven by God. Their sins do not remain but are washed away. Sinful suffering on the other hand burdens the soul with guilt and shame.
5. Christian suffering merits an eternal reward
The Christian may suffer unjustly, but if such suffering is borne well, it merits for them an eternal reward. Such a rewards starts with being strengthened in virtue like patience, humility and fortitude. It draws the soul closer to perfection and holiness and love. And these become the source of one’s eternal happiness and peace.
“If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” – 1 Peter 2:20-21 (NRSVCE)
The Fruits of Suffering
We may not see for now the fruits that we reap through our many sufferings as Christians, but one day, we shall see and the world will know.
To suffer without Christ is to be in hell. But to suffer with Him and out of love for Him is to already have a glimpse of heaven.
“Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” – Malachi 3:16-18 (NRSVCE)
You may also want to read: Is Christianity All About Suffering?
Jocelyn Soriano is the author of the book Defending My Catholic Faith.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” – 1 Peter 3:15 (NABRE)