I'm afraid of sufferings, I don't like them, yet I've been through a lot of them in my life. I've been through pains, depressions, confusions, hopelessness and fears. I also experienced being judged rashly by others. But thank God, I survived all of them.
I've been reflecting on suffering for many years. I've been asking God so many questions about suffering. At first, I thought God would give me all the answers in just one prayer, but I was wrong. Instead of giving me all the answers right away, he chose to enlighten me little by little in many different ways: through books, different situations in life, the lives of other people, prayers and reflections. He still continues to enlighten me until now. I can feel that he's not finished with me yet.
These are some of the things that I learned about suffering:
- Nobody is exempted from suffering, not even Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.
- The cross which is the ultimate symbol of suffering is also the symbol of salvation.
- Suffering is purification.
- Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus. - No. 1521, Catechism of the Catholic Church
- "Understand, that the affliction of mankind is no penal law, for suffering is medicinal in its character." - St. Augustine
From The Handbook of the Legion of Mary, Chapter 9, No. 3
- Every Christian should be made to realize that he cannot pick and choose in Christ.
- That union with the heart and blood of Christ is not to be found in a phase of His life, but in the life entire. It is as futile, as it is unworthy, to welcome the King of Glory and to repulse the Man of Sorrows, for the two are but the one Christ.
- In other words, if we want to follow Christ and be one with Him, we have to accept the complete and entire life of Christ. We have to accept not just the joyful Christ and the glorious Christ but also the suffering Christ. It is not right to follow Christ but leave Him in the agonizing part of His life.
Once in my impatience, I shamelessly told Christ that He was able to endure all His sufferings because He is God, and I'm only human. But Christ patiently enlightened me and showed me the lives of the saints who are also humans just like me, saints such as:
- Blessed Margaret of Castello who was born blind, hunchbacked, lame, deformed and a dwarf; who was hidden by her parents for many years until she was abandoned by them because they were ashamed and could not accept her.
- St. Rita of Cascia who was married for 18 years to a cruel and abusive husband. Her marriage was arranged by her parents in spite of her desire to become a nun.
- St. Bernadette Soubirous who was born in extreme poverty; whose family lived in a single room that used to be a prison cell; who had a chronic asthma and tumor on the knee, and later on as a nun, was afflicted with bone disease and aneurysm.
- St. Maximillian Kolbe who was imprisoned by the Nazi's in Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, was starved to death in an underground bunker, and later killed with a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
- And Blessed John Paul II who lost one by one his mother, brother and father before he was 20; who witnessed the Nazi occupation of his country, Poland during World War II; who during his pontificate survived an assassination attempt, but later suffered Parkinson's disease till the end of his life.
I also shamelessly complained to Christ, why is it that sometimes my sufferings are more painful than the sufferings of others. But He patiently made me understand that each person has different degrees of suffering. Why is this so? It's because every person in this world has different strengths and weaknesses. What is painful to me may not be painful to others, what is painful to others may not be painful to me.
Until now, I'm still afraid of sufferings, but the lives of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints, and the knowledge that I'm not alone always give me strength.
"Not with the Cross of the Savior behind you, but with your own cross behind the Savior."
- Cyprian Norwid, Polish poet