Our culture is less able to penetrate the mystery of suffering than likely any culture before us. Ask the people of this culture what is most important to them and you’ll get a variety of similar sounding answers. Money, sex and power are the big three. Perhaps health, making a difference, success, peace might come from others. Rare is the person who will say “living out the will of God in my life is what is most important to me.” And yet isn’t that why we were all created?
From 1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
When a culture or a person puts second things first, and first things last, disorder is the result. Disorder breeds a lack of understanding. The culture we live in has no tolerance for suffering because suffering is not understood. It is seen as a bad, a negative, something to be overcome. As it is perceived as a bad, our culture wants to eliminate it. In attempting to do so, the good that is part of suffering goes with it.
At the bottom of every reason for suffering, even beyond sin, is love. For it was out of love that God gave Adam and Eve the free will to sin or not sin. Love is the fullest answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. Divine love, which is often inscrutable but always perfect, comes to us through suffering. From On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Pope John Paul II says we come to know, “the truth of love through the truth of suffering.”
It is in carrying and embracing our cross that we come to know about suffering and therefore love. Continuing with On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, “In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”
Saint Elizabeth Anne Seton expresses the need for this Christological perspective when it comes to suffering. She said, “We must often draw the comparison of time and eternity. That is the remedy for all troubles. How small will the present moment appear when we enter that great ocean! How much we will then wish we had doubled our penance and sufferings while that moment lasted.”
Love, and flowing from that, our redemption, is what allows us to embrace our suffering. Is it any wonder then, why our modern culture does not understand suffering? It does not understand love, how can it grasp suffering?
So suffering that is sanctified is suffering that works for good. Every action that is permitted by God contains within it the seeds of our sanctification. God is waiting to do His part, we only need to do ours.
Offer your suffering back to God – whatever suffering it may be. Allow Him to sanctify it. And watch the love bloom, blossom and burst forth from His heart to yours.