Suffering wears many masks
Suffering comes in many shapes and sizes and wears many masks.
- Being sick ourselves
- People dying
- Pain from watching others suffer
Suffering is a mystery to human experience as we all suffer in different ways. It is an inevitable part of life. But it doesn’t have to be meaningless. With the recent events and like so many things in life we have little or no control over. How we respond makes all the difference.
Jesus the Counselor
“I tell you the truth, you will cry and be sad, but the world will be happy. You will be sad but your sadness will become joy. When a woman gives birth to a baby, she has pain, because her time has come. But when her baby is born, she forgets the pain because she is so happy that a child has been born into the world. It is the same with you. Now you are in pain but I will see you again and you will be happy and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.”
(John 16:20 -22)
Is suffering always bad?
This passage proves that Jesus see’s suffering in a different light than the world does at this moment in time. We cannot make sense of suffering if we view it as worthless. Suffering is a necessary part of life. You cannot have life as we know it without suffering. The Christian writer, C S Lewis, lost his wife to cancer less than two years after he married her. After this very sad experience Lewis wrote: “try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free will involve and you will have excluded life itself”.
He said this because he believed that suffering presents a challenge to human beings to search for inner strength. In a word without suffering, people would have nothing to fight against or to strive for. It is largely this that makes us the people we are. While people are undergoing suffering, or when they come out of the experience, they are much stronger.
Lots of questions
The world has no answer for the inescapable, unavoidable and inevitable suffering of our lives but it does have a purpose.
We can try to run from it, or we can accept it and allow it to transform us
We can get angry or let it teach us to love more.
Central part to the life of Jesus
Jesus didn’t sugar-coat things or pretend. He led by example and asked for our commitment. That Friday afternoon the world changed when Jesus laid down his life for us. That was how he changed the world.
“If any want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.
My mother had a special way of approaching the presence of illness and suffering in her life. She often remarked that the traditional saying ‘God never gives a cross without the back to bear it’ was wrong. She insisted that it ought to say ‘God never gives a cross without the backs to bear it’ for it is only by standing shoulder to shoulder that can we carry the crosses which come
our way from the Lord. Indeed, quite often it is the shoulders of the sick persons themselves who help us to carry the cross together. Often it is the sick who bless us with their courage, tenacious faith and enduring hope.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
What cross is Jesus inviting you to take up and carry today?
The mystery of the gift of life in each one of us becomes more precious at times like this. Let us treasure and serve that mystery, for it is the mystery of God himself.
Jesus, You suffered and died for us; You understand suffering; Teach me to understand my suffering as You do; To bear it in union with You; To offer it with You to atone for my sins And to bring Your grace to souls in need. Calm my fears; increase my trust. May I gladly accept Your holy will and become more like You in trial. If it be Your will, restore me to health so that I may work for Your honour and glory and the salvation of all men.