Sunday, April 1, 2012
Blog # 234 Suffering - 2
Blog # 234 Suffering - 2 Here are a few more reflections on the question of suffering in the world to help us recall and proclaim an authentic Christian identity of suffering as well as to help us determine and develop our personal response to suffering in our own life now or in the future. First, suffering is real. Much suffering, however, could and should be avoided. And this according to God's will and plan for us. For example the suffering of a headache on the morning after a night on the town. Or the suffering of heart problems stemming from high blood pressure that is a result of bad eating habits, lack of exercise, toleration of excessive anger, etc. Yet in spite of all that we might do to avoid or eliminate it, suffering is real. All of us have suffered, do suffer, or will suffer. So we have questions about suffering. Does it have any meaning or value? How does suffering fit into our notion of an all powerful all loving God? We believe that no reality is real by accident, or, in other words, outside or apart from the creating power of God. Nothing that exists exists without God willing it to exist. So we can look to God for any meaning or value suffering might have. And since God is identified as love, we can and should seek something that has to do with love in whatever solution we come to with regard to the problem of suffering. That insight places the 'problem' of suffering in the proper framework. How, then, can love be found, developed, and expressed in suffering? A key insight here is to see suffering as a gift, a gift from God to us as an expression of God's love, and as a gift from us to God as an expression of our trust and love for God. In our free decision to accept and respond to suffering as a gift from God we grow in the perfection of our love for God and become more worthy of God's love for us.. In the trust that it takes to love God this way we become more loveable to God. The trust Jesus expressed in Gethsemani and on the cross of commending Himself into the hands of the Father can be ours by force of our union with Jesus in faith and Baptism. Speaking in human terms it becomes easier now for God to see the image of His Beloved Son in us and love us as He loved Jesus. ( John 17:25).This opportunity for us to trust and love God in suffering is surely among the upermost values and greatest meaning to be found in suffering. Yet I think it is still unfamiliar to many in their sufferings. As gift, suffering also brings us to the truth about ourselves, the absolute truth that we are not God. We are not in total control; we are not all powerful. We have needs that can only be fulfilled outside of ourselves. Humility is the virtue that calls us to realize and accept this truth about ourselves. Suffering offers humility, which for those who believe in God, is a gift of God's love. Suffering has that potential value and meaning. Suffering also has the ability to build character, offering us courage, patience and trust that could not be found without the experience of suffering. Suffering among Christians is the suffering of Jesus in us. Others have an experience of their God being with them, in the sense of blessing them and giving them support encouragement and hope for healing in their suffering, but we, in addition to these real benefits, as Catholic Christians, have our God within us . As a consequence, in our sufferings we can make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Jesus for the redemption of the world and for the sake of His Body which is the Church. All suffering can be transformed into love, That is its primary value and meaning. Without an awareness and living out of this, suffering can be wasted. I have reserved more Biblical texts on suffering for tomorrow.