We all need to be reminded that all our suffering has a positive and favorable aspect. It’s not all entirely bad and negative, though in itself it will always be bad. But if viewed and lived through our Christian faith, there is something in it that can give us a greater good. We may refer to this advantageous aspect of suffering as the happy Good News or Gospel of Suffering.
Our pains and suffering are always the result of sin, ours and those of the others. They are the necessary consequence of our separation, whether temporary or permanent, from God from whom all good things come. (cfr. Ps 16,2; James 1,17) We may not be the direct cause of our own suffering, but in this world, we cannot escape the effects of sin, and so we must be ready for them just the same.
We have to remind ourselves that we are not meant to suffer. Our original as well as our ideal definitive state in heaven excludes suffering. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were in the state of original justice, where everything was in order and in harmony. No pain and suffering touched them until they fell into sin.
And as the Book of Revelation would put it, in our definitive state of life in heaven “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21,4)
In this life, we have to expect and be prepared for the unavoidable pain and suffering. And this means that whether we are guilty or not of our pains and suffering, all we have to do is to go immediately to Christ who shows us how to handle our pains and suffering and who is ready to forgive us if ever we are guilty of suffering.
It’s true that God is always offended by our sin, and will somehow show his anger and disappointment to us. But let’s never forget that with him, anger would only be for a moment, while his mercy is forever. (cfr. Ps 30,5)
There is really no reason for us to be afraid or ashamed to go back to him. He may give us a little ‘scolding’ but he will always forgive us and bring us back to his good graces. We should not delay in going back to him, nor make ourselves hard to find, since God, like a good father, will always look for us when we stray, as portrayed in the parable of the lost sheep. (cfr. Lk 15,4-7)
In the meantime, let us develop the practice of meditating on the passion and death of Christ, for in there is the template of how we have to bear our pains and suffering, and eventually our death. All we have to do is to ask for forgiveness for sins in general, whether ours or those of the others.
In this way, we can join Christ in his redemptive passion and death on the cross. And like Christ, we can convert our pains and suffering into a means of our salvation. And while they continue to have their unavoidable effects on us, we know that they now have a redemptive meaning and function, they can help purify and strengthen us in our faith and in our over-all way of life.
Somehow they become bearable, and we can afford to remain calm and with a certain degree of joy. They lose their purely negative aspect and instead acquire a most welcome one.
It’s with this faith that we lose any fear for suffering, and would even look forward to any opportunity to suffer since we would already know that suffering with Christ would have so many wonderful effects now and in the hereafter!