"It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should both believe in Him and suffer for Him." -Philippians 1:29And from here I was led to a new place of understanding. Within the past year, I have struggled with the concept and actual, physical nature of suffering. It manifests in various forms, and sometimes, it's a sneaky little thing. Sometimes, it is a garish brute that comes at you from straight ahead. I've asked myself and God, what is suffering's purpose?
The greatness of our God must be tested by the desire we have for suffering for His sake...Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you! -St. Philip Neri
I still don't have the answer, and I know I will never fully grasp what suffering is and why it is a part of the world. What I do know, however, is that it maybe sorta kinda is a necessary part of life.
Yes. Because without it, I feel like many people would think that because nothing was going wrong in their lives, they would feel no need to have a relationship with God. If life was perfect, we would still rejoice and be thankful of course...for the only thing that we would know - the good, material stuff, but I don't think we would rejoice and say thank you for the very reason that we should be thankful.
But if all of a sudden suffering existed in this pretend-world where everything worked and life was peachy, what would happen? When we think we need God, when we're in whatever crisis, that's when we would reach out. That's when we pray. That's when we say, oh hey God, could you help me out? If you felt that you didn't need God, would you make any effort to sustain your relationship? I'm afraid that many, perhaps even myself, would not feel the need to recognize God's presence. That's a scary thing to think. Perhaps because there is some truth in that statement.
Oftentimes I am guilty that when things are great and awesome, I at times forget to say thank you. In moments of suffering, I do reach out, with both arms and every cell in my body. But I shouldn't be conversing with God only when I feel that I need Him. I, you, we need to be constantly growing in faith and praying and nurturing our relationship with God...all the time.
We shouldn't do those things only when life sucks. We should be doing those things all of the time. When life is beautiful and wonderful, when the sun shines on your face and you receive the summer's first sunburn, when you make excellent grades and pass that test, when you score that sweet deal at the store, when you enjoy good food with your loved ones...rejoice and be thankful. Pray. Talk with God.
When your house is leveled by a natural disaster, when people go their separate ways for whatever reason, when physical pain becomes the rule instead of the exception, when you save every penny just to make sure you can get food on the table, when the million things that could go wrong in one day do...when life just really sucks big time...Pray. Be thankful for what you do have. Recognize the blessings that are around you, because they are there. Though it is at times really difficult to see, peace and love and goodness are there. We should rejoice always, and we should also make sure that we are thanking the right person...God. We don't need to turn objects and situations into idols. Thank the Creator, not the thing itself. And know that suffering doesn't have to be a characteristic but a state that you will pass through, periodically throughout our earthly life. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that suffering ceases to exist once we leave this earth and join our Father in heaven.
I mean, would we really have learned anything if Jesus didn't suffer on the cross? Every year with the start of Holy Week, we hear the Passion. So we all know what happened. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't painless, physically or emotionally, for all those who loved Jesus and were present. Just as they suffered at the foot of His cross while Jesus was in agony, so too does God hurt when we hurt. He doesn't enjoy when we suffer. In fact, God knows what it feels like because Jesus himself was fully divine and fully human.
In my sufferings, yes, I reach out to God. Through them, I do learn more about myself and about my relationship with God, but I also grow more in my appreciation for everything that is in my life, good and bad. I may not understand why it all happens the way it does, but I'm not supposed to!