DHRUWADEEPTI : // Soul Drops:
Suffering is God’s Gift!
Compiled by Elsy Mathew
Suffering seems more because we count them, measure them, analyze them every day. On the other hand, if we count our blessings we will realize that our blessings will outnumber our sufferings.
We are now living through the days of Covid-19 pandemic that has wrecked untold misery and suffering all over the world. No country or place has been spared from its death-dealing grip. No other disease or plague in history has had such a universal impact as Covid -19. The whole world is going through great suffering: sickness all over, deaths everywhere; people have lost jobs, financial crisis, Parents not able to meet their children and children not able to meet their sick and old parents living in far off places. Our life situation is totally different from what we were used to earlier. Everyone is going through some problem or another. In the world you will see many people who had given up on praying, but have now started to pray again. How many have been spiritually lazy, but are now being shaken awake to restore their relationship with God. Psalms 33:12: says: Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord; Happy are the people he has chosen for his own.
Suffering is a reality that every human being is called upon to embrace and live with through life. But for us Christians, we look up to the life of Jesus and his teachings in handling this matter that has to become part of our life inevitably at some stage or another. (Phili 2:6). “Though being divine in nature, Jesus did not claim equality with God but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in appearance found as a man. He humbled himself by being obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and gave him the name that outshines all other names so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven and under the earth, and all tongues proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Suffering is hard. It is not easy. Mark 8:34. “If anyone wants to come with me”, he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. If you really want to follow Jesus, you need to bear your cross and carry it. “Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient. Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation. Trust the Lord, and he will help you”. (Sirach 2:4).
We always say: God, for how long have I go through this suffering? There is no end to it. You don’t answer my prayer. 2 Peter 3:8. “There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same”. We see in the Gospel how Jesus cures the lady who was bent over for 18 years. She did not go to Jesus asking him to heal her. She went to pray in the Synagogue and Jesus noticed her suffering and pain and His heart went out to her. Immediately He called her and healed her. Jesus comes in all the events of our life.. Every Cross and every event in life makes God’s presence more visible. Even in every joyful moment we have his presence there.
If our Lord is the Master He wills everything and He knows everything. We must see His hands in everything. His presence is there in every bit of our suffering. He has a purpose in our life. At his time he will come and make us feel happy again. So when we go through sufferings our prayer should be like this: Psalms 63:13. As for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God. At a time you choose.
It is only in the storms of life, and the toughest of times when people humble themselves before the Most High and seek His help. Psalms 119:71 says, “My suffering was good for me. For it taught me to pay attention to your Decrees. When I look back and see what God has done for me, I realize that God knows the best. I cannot compare my mind with God’s for he truly knows what I really need. There is a saying: Every single thing that has ever happened in your life, is preparing you for a moment that’s yet to come. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.
Pope Francis talks about suffering
In hopeless situations of pain and suffering, God never abandons his children but rather remains close to them. "God's answer to our pain is closeness, a presence that accompanies us, that doesn't leave us alone. Jesus made himself the same as us and for this reason we have him near us, to cry with us in the most difficult moments of our lives. Let us look at him, entrust him with our questions, our sorrows, our anger. God does not always change our situation. But he uses the situation to change us. “God is Good all the time.” God is using this time to test the faith of those who serve Him. We are not alone in carrying our cross. Trust that Jesus is with you and helping you to carry the Cross.
All of us go through some kind of suffering in our lives. From my own experience I would consider Suffering as God’s Gift. As I was meditating on my suffering, one day I got an answer from God:
2 Corinthians 12:8. It Says: Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak. I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.
Nothing happens in our life without His knowledge. He has a purpose in our life. Whether it is happiness or sadness, everything comes from God. The word of God says:( Job 2:10) When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” In spite of everything he suffered, Job said nothing against God. My life became different. I am Grace filled and God has given me a peaceful life here on. I surrender everything with full trust that God will do what is best for me and for his children.
When we go through suffering, how do we take it? What is our response to suffering? That is also important. I would share something Mother Teresa shared about life’s problems. Eileen Egan was a lay person who worked with the Missionaries of Charity for 30 years. She describes her experiences with Mother Teresa in her book, Such a Vision of the Street. One day, Eileen was reciting to Mother Teresa a 'litany' of problems she had been faced with. Mother suggested that Eileen change her attitude: "Everything is a 'problem'. Why not use the word "gift"? From then on, there was a shift in vocabulary. Eileen describes on one occasion when she was accompanying the nun on a trip, and had to face a long delay at an Airport. She was about to inform Mother of the 'problem', when she remembered Mother's advice and turning to the saintly woman, said, "Mother, I have to tell you about a gift." As soon as Mother Teresa heard of the delay, she settled down calmly to read her favourite book of meditations. Eileen concluded that after she had learnt the lesson, whenever disappointments or difficulties cropped up, they would be introduced with "We have a small gift here" or "Today we have a specially big gift." This attitude changed the mood and the approach to the mishaps.
What is suffering? What are these bends on the road that God puts in the path of life that we are to consider carefully? Suffering is anything which hurts or irritates. In the design of God, it is also something that makes us think. It is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes that would never occur in our lives in a way without trial or irritation. When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember; God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.
Jesus himself went through suffering to show his great love for us. Instead of dying on the Cross, he could have easily chosen some other means to show his love. But in the Cross he showed his love and mercy for the whole of humanity. Mother Mary also suffered a lot throughout her life. She suffered so intensely while watching her Son die that she nearly died herself. What can Mary’s deep suffering show you about suffering in your own life? In what ways can you imitate her willing acceptance of profound pain?
When we become close to God, please don’t think that life will become easier. I remember once someone telling me,” Don’t go closer to God or else you will be having only "sufferings”. When we come close to God, He gives us experiences. This is very true with all the saints. We know how close St. Alphonsa was with Jesus but the kind of suffering she had in her life was extreme.
We also read about the life of Saint Teresa of Avila who had become very close to God, but her life was not that easy at all but rather her life became even harder. She had to go through lots of suffering. One day she complained about it. And then Jesus said to her. “Teresa, this is the way I treat my friends. Then she replied to him: “No wonder you have very few friends.”
How Can Suffering Be Good?
Five Ways Suffering is an Unexpected Gift
1.Closeness to God: Psalms 34:18 says “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Many times we believe that the presence of suffering means the absence of God. On the contrary! When God’s children are suffering He is then close to them, not far away. God is not the cause of our suffering and does not delight in our pain. The gift of God’s presence is not dependent on how well our life is going but on His love for us. And since He loves us all the time, he will always be with us during the good and the bad. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is His presence. Though we sometimes have to walk through the valley, we do not walk alone. Storms come to everyone. God won’t keep us from being thrown into a lion’s den, but He will close the mouths of the lions. God won’t keep us from being thrown into the fiery furnace, but He will ensure that not even a single hair of our head is burned.
2. Increased Faith: (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV) Be glad about this; even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honour on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Suffering surely does
test our faith. It’s easy to believe our God is a good Father when things are
going well. But can we uphold this faith when it feels as though we are going
through the fires of life? “The most defining faith moments in my
life have been in times of suffering, giving me a clear revelation of God and
His love for me that strengthened my trust in Him.”
3. Ability to Comfort Others: 2 Corinthians 1:3. Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes. He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help.” When I’m suffering, I find great encouragement from those who’ve walked the same or a similar path. It’s a testimony that if God brought them through, He can do so for me as well. This gives me great comfort. In my suffering, I too can offer this same gift of comfort to others.
4. Fellowship with Christ: Phil 3:8. I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere refuse, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law, I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life. One of the most unique aspects of the Christian faith is that our Savior suffered and overcame it. Yes, Jesus was sinless, but He lived a tough life. He knew all about suffering. So when we suffer we can know that not only does our God care, He understands. In our suffering, we gain more fellowship with Christ that the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 3:8-11 as far more significant than everything he was able to attain in the flesh.
5. Eternal Perspective: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV) Our suffering is a constant reminder that this is not the end. Because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are gifted the hope of an eternal perspective even when we are hurting – especially when we are hurting. During seasons of suffering our fear is we will be in pain forever, but the Gospel gives us a greater perspective on suffering and pain. We know from the incident of the Wedding at Cana that Mother Mary is concerned with all aspects of our life, even our temporal needs. Are there needs in your life that you’ve been hesitant to ask for? What does Mary’s role in the Wedding at Cana tell you about her desire to help you in all your needs? Don’t forget to pray to Mother Mary. Pray Rosary everyday and make that as a tool to strengthen you in your sufferings.
Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
all things will pass away.
God never changes;
patience obtains all things,
whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices. Amen.
--St Teresa of Avila (A prayer)
I have placed before you a few thoughts on how we may transform occasions of suffering in our life into a gift that we can return to God. I am not hereby ignoring the bitterness of suffering. However, we can turn suffering into growth-producing fruits within us when we let Jesus take our burdens and carry them with us. He said: “Come to me all of you who work hard and carry heavy burdens and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mathew 11: 28-30). Only in the light of Jesus’ sufferings and his close support to us can we endure our sufferings for we know that he carries them with us and will turn them into glory for us in his time. We only need to trust in his love that never leaves us. May our faith and love be our strength at all times to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises When we go through difficult situations, God answers our prayer in a different way:
I asked for Strength...... And God gave me Difficulties to make me Strong
I asked for Wisdom...... and God gave me Problems to Solve
I asked for Courage...... And God gave me Danger to Overcome
I asked for Love.....And God gave me Troubled people to help.
I asked for Favour......And God gave me Opportunities
I received nothing I wanted.... I received everything I needed!
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