By the late Father Kilian McGowan, C.P.
There’s a stranger, usually unwelcome, who makes an appearance in each of our lives. His name is “Suffering.” Because he is a mysterious stranger-too many of us don’t know just why he comes, or exactly what he expects of us.
Let us immediately say that suffering in itself is an evil-for it is a deprivation of a certain good of mind, or heart or spirit. The saints never considered suffering as desirable in itself, but only as the manifestation of the will of God.
To love pain for the sake of pain is not only un-Christian, it is unnatural. The saints looked upon suffering as a caress in the arms of Christ Crucified. They realized with St. Paul that “to those who love God all things work unto good.” To them the Cross without Christ was meaningless!
With this in mind, let’s consider the triple role of suffering in the life of the Christian:
1) The first role of suffering is to save us from ourselves. We need this saving, because our tendency is to become so absorbed with the creatures of this world as to lose sufficient concern for the life to come. We become wrapped up in our little plans, our preoccupations, our round of pleasures and get side-tracked in our march to eternity.
We become like the Apostles looking on the Transfigured Christ upon the heights of Tabor. Ecstatic over the heavenly vision they called out: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” We sometimes tell God not to dare change anything; we like things just as they are.
We’re not really content, just comfortable. Not resigned, just placid. Why? Because there’s no real hunger for the things of God-no real desire for the vision for which we were created. And so, God sends the Cross to shake us up and regain perspective.
2) The second role of suffering is to destroy our self-centeredness. The cancer of selfishness is usually so deeply rooted in us that only the Divine Physician can cut it out. Suffering is often the spiritual surgery by which He removes this malignancy.
An honest scrutiny of our hearts quickly reveals how much in life revolves about self. How frequently we cater to our desires for comfort and pleasure. How often we pamper our vanity and pride. How little we are concerned with the good pleasure of God. We are fearful lest having God we have naught else besides, as the poet expressed it.
3) The third purpose of suffering is the key to all the others. It is to increase our Christlikeness. This indeed is the ultimate purpose of God’s handling our lives. It’s true that suffering can scar or disfigure the spirit of man, but it can also heal and redeem. It is an invitation to share the redeeming pain of the Passion of Jesus.
Suffering then casts us in the mold of Christ Crucified. It then becomes the highest and most fruitful expression of the Christlife. It is a continuing of the Passion of Christ in time. And if we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified with Him.
God always uses the cross as a mold in which He forms the most perfect reproductions of His well-beloved Son. That’s why it can never hurt you when borne with patience and love. It may deprive you of something you want or something you think you need, but it always offers something far more precious in its stead.
It always offers you Christ, the unchanging Lover, because you can’t embrace the cross without embracing the God-man on it!
With special thanks to : http://www.cukierski.net