How can there be any benefits to suffering? Pop philosophy says that no one should have to suffer.
In our over-indulgent, instant-gratification culture, that idea is well received. Forget self-sacrifice, fasting or anything like that. Offer up our suffering as a sacrifice to God in repentance for our sins? That’s archaic Catholic rubbish, isn’t it?
Suffering Is Part of Life
No, that’s life. We have to deal with suffering, no matter how hard we try to avoid it or how much we think we don’t deserve it.
Any wealthy person can tell you that money doesn’t buy happiness or a waiver from suffering. Being powerful or a celebrity doesn’t save you from losing a spouse or child or being stricken with a terrible disease. The headlines are full of such news.
With little effort, each of us can think of friends and family as well who have been dealing with horrible situations such as addiction, abuse, or financial difficulties. Suffering happens — a lot!
When it comes to suffering, it’s important to remember that everything in life is attitude. You can gripe and complain that suffering is unfair, or you can approach it with the appreciation of the positive aspects of suffering.
Suffering Leads to Positive Change
In a guest blog called “Trading Negatives for Positives” that I wrote for William Hemsworth, President of the Tucson Institute of Catholic Apologetics, I said that one shouldn’t despair over one’s difficulties but see them as preparation for a positive change, as the darkest hour just before dawn. https://williamhemsworth.com/2019/06/
Similarly, in a recent interview with Angelus News, Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin, said, “I think we need to place ourselves in heaven and realize the most difficult crosses in our lives will end up being the source of greatest graces and blessings, if we could just see the whole panorama of our lives from the back end.”
Bishop Hying added, “The other thing to understand is the mystery of God’s passive will. Theologically, we would say God does not will evil or bad things, but he allows them to be. So, if he allows them to be, then somehow they must be for a greater good. We just need to learn to trust that and believe it.” https://angelusnews.com/arts-culture/a-bishops-case-for-slowing-down-in-a-world-that-avoids-thinking-about-eternity/
This latter comment ties into an earlier “Musings” blog of mine: “If God Is All Good, Why Is He Blamed for the Bad?” In that blog I discussed how God is good all the time and, therefore, cannot be linked to anything bad. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/musingsfromthepew/2021/09/170/
That includes suffering. God doesn’t cause suffering, but He can comfort us in our suffering. If we pray for God’s mercy, He will ease our suffering. In His infinite goodness, God will also find a way to turn that suffering into a benefit for us.
Suffering Turned to Triumph
The most famous example of suffering comes from the Book of Job. God thought Job was close to perfect as a righteous man. To prove God wrong, Satan brought multiple calamities down upon Job, leaving him with no family, no money, and great physical pain.
Yet Job endured the suffering with only praise for God. He had faith that God would make things right. His reward was as much as he had before, times two!
Thus, when we suffer, we should not whine but anticipate a better outcome.
Isn’t that the lesson from Christ’s life too? The crucifixion, the product of sin and evil, caused the Lord tremendous suffering, but then the greatest miracle occurred, the Resurrection, bringing salvation to us all.
When you wallow in your own suffering, pitying your poor self, think of Christ’s suffering. For one thing, you ought to then realize with shame that your suffering doesn’t even begin to compare.
For another, you ought to then remember that Christ’s suffering resulted in great joy and glory for all eternity.
How we deal with suffering can make the difference between achieving heaven or ending up in hell. If we curse God in our suffering, the devil will happily exploit our lack of faith and lead us into hell.
If we believe our suffering will end because of God’s goodness, we will see that truth manifested for all eternity.