Suffering is No Big Deal?What exactly is suffering? Can we only call it suffering when there is some great tragedy in our lives? Some people do not like to call the little pricks of life "suffering," but Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdelen, O.C.D. described it this way:
" Suffering is the disagreeable feeling which we experience when something - a situation, a circumstance - does not correspond to our inclinations, our needs, or our hopes, which does not harmonize with them or gratify them, but on the contrary, contradicts and opposes them."So, we can call "suffering" all those "little" things that annoy us, aggravate us, upset us. We apply the "rules of suffering" to little things as well as big. We miss opportunities of love if we overlook the small opportunities and consider them unworthy of our bearing them attentively.
Suffering Is Evil, Suffering Well is Good
"Suffering in itself is an evil and cannot be agreeable; if Jesus willed to embrace it in all its plenitude and if He offers it to us, inviting us to esteem and love it, it is only in view of a superior good which cannot be attained by any other means - the sublime good of the redemption and the sanctification of our souls."
It seems to me hard to see the value in suffering because I continue to think of the value at the moment, or the value that I can foresee. It's so important to remember that we can't see all that God sees, and He looks not just in this moment but off into eternity, and not just for our individual souls, but at all souls. We have to trust that there is a "superior good" because often we can't see it or foresee it. We can only know it by faith.
"Whereas all men are subject to this misery, the Christian alone possesses the secret of accepting it into his life without destroying the harmony or the happiness which he can enjoy on earth. This secret consist precisely, for a Christian, in attuning all kids of suffering to his personal aspirations, which for him, can never be limited to an ideal of earthly happiness."
As Christians, we also are called to "look beyond" and not limit ourselves to an "ideal of earthly happiness." As St. Therese said, "...When I think that, for a sorrow borne with joy, I shall be able to love You more for all eternity, I understand clearly that if You gave me the entire universe, with all its treasures, it would be nothing in comparison to the slightest suffering."
What's Love God to Do With It?
"This harmony is possible for that which appears to be opposition and disagreement from one point of view, often turns into profit when seen in a different lights........Every kind of suffering can then be made conformable to the highest ideals of the Christian: eternal salvation, sanctity, the glory of God, the good of souls. But this congruity is impossible without love; or rather it will be possible only in proportion to our love, for it was by love alone that Jesus transformed the Cross, a terrible instrument of torture, into a most efficacious instrument for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind."We cannot will ourselves, force ourselves, to accept suffering generously and graciously. We can't force ourselves to love. We usually grow in love slowly, "...our love is dilated under an increasingly generous inspiration, unto an ever greater love." This "generous inspiration" is a gift from God that we do not initiate, we merely cooperate with it. And this "mere" cooperation is the work that requires the great work of our will, our faith, our trust, our small "yes" at each moment.
"It is the same for us : charity, the love of God and of souls, will enable us to accept any kind of suffering, harmonizing it with our loftiest aspirations. In this way, suffering finds a place, a very important place, in our life, without destroying our peace and serenity. On the contrary, our spirit is dilated under an increasingly generous inspiration, unto an ever greater love. As a result, we shall be happy, even while we are experiencing pain."
Less of Me, More of YouI suppose that if we can begin to think less of ourselves and more of others, this will help us to cooperate with God's work of love in our heart. A little way to do this is the simple offering, "I offer this up for love of You oh Lord, in reparation for sins, and for the salvation of souls, and unity in the Church." Saying this is an act of the will. Praying helps take the focus off our suffering and expand it to all the others who are also suffering, and to our Good God who suffers so greatly at our separation from Him by sin,
I have "offered up" a lot these past months. The night in the hospital that I couldn't sleep, I never ran out of people to pray for, people to offer the suffering of my pain and fear. The more I prayed, the more people I thought of to pray for. The Lord did dilate, expand, my heart. I can't say I suffered well, I certainly have had no joy in the suffering, I often lack peace and serenity. But peace and serenity are there when I stop to sit at the Master's feet, to look upon His face, to bask in His presence. It may only be for a moment, but those are really nice moments, even in the midst of everything else.
Read More:Here are some "offering it up" prayers:
Morning Offering or Morning Offering through the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Prayer for Offering up Suffering
If you want to read more about "offering it up," I suggest:
Maureen O'Shea "Offer it Up"
Happy Catholic "Offer it Up? What the Heck Does That Mean?"
Bill Harkens at US Catholic "No Pain, No Gain: Offering It Up"