Skip to comments.Following The Truth: Appreciating The Gift Of Suffering (Catholic or Open)
Posted on 12/02/2011 8:11:54 AM PST by Salvation
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christs afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church (Col 1:24).
When I first read St. Pauls words to the people of Colossae, I was stunned and Im sure that Im not alone. Is he actually stating that Jesus sacrifice on the Cross was somehow incomplete? Did Paul have to suffer in order to somehow complete the Lords salvific mission at Calvary? Furthermore, whats this about rejoicing in his sufferings? In order to better understand this confusing passage, lets explore the Catholic teaching on redemptive suffering and its importance in our daily lives. After were finished, I think youll agree that it not only makes sense, but that it really is possible to rejoice in our sufferings.
Before anyone misinterprets St. Pauls statement, lets set the record straight. The Catholic Church teaches that the suffering of Christ has infinite value and was fully sufficient to cover all of our sins. In other words, He did His job completely. By dying on the Cross in atonement for our sins, Jesus made it possible for us to go to heaven period! However, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, Christ allows all those incorporated into His Mystical Body (the Church) to suffer with Him and assist in the process of redemption. Fortunately for us, this very simplified explanation of redemptive suffering is all we need to know in order to take advantage of it!
As we explore the importance of offering up our suffering, its important to first acknowledge two facts:
1. Everyone has some form of suffering in their lives.
2. All earthly suffering is temporary and will come to an end.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is failing to recognize suffering in our daily lives. Sure, we can recognize the big stuff such as cancer, unemployment, broken relationships and death, but we often fail to recognize the little things such as remaining quiet when we feel like arguing, waiting in a long line at the grocery store, sitting in a traffic jam or performing a charitable act when wed rather relax. By not identifying these minor inconveniences as forms of suffering, we miss many opportunities to offer them up.
When it comes to offering up these little things, few people were better than St. Therese of Lisieux. Rather than complain, she embraced small inconveniences and used them as a way to climb up on the Cross with Jesus. She understood that, by doing so, she was able to assist Him with the salvation of mankind. In the same way, Jesus calls all of us to join in His redemptive mission. We each have unique sufferings that only we can bring to the Cross.
In addition to small inconveniences, many people are suffering to a much greater degree. Unemployment, job dissatisfaction, loneliness, divorce and illness are a regular part of many lives. Despite prayers asking for relief, it may take days, months, years, or a lifetime for the suffering to disappear. How can we continue functioning when faced with days of misery and pain? Ive discovered that a great way to make suffering more bearable is to remember that it will pass and to look at it as a gift. Now, before you accuse me of being out of my mind, lets explore this a bit further. Every one of us owes Jesus a debt that we could not possibly repay. He died a painful and agonizing death on the Cross so that we could live forever in heaven. Without His sacrifice, this would not have been possible. Furthermore, His bloody sacrifice was necessary not for His sins but for OUR sins! All of the sins (both venial and mortal) that we have committed (and continue to commit every day) are the cause of Our Lords painful death on the Cross. Doesnt it seem right that we should do something to help Him? Shouldnt we hurt a little bit also? Thanks to the gift of suffering in our lives, we can do just that. By accepting our suffering and offering it up, we are able to share in Christs pain and His mission.
In addition to uniting our suffering to Christs, we should also remember to ask for His help. The Lord doesnt expect us to carry our crosses alone and will provide the graces necessary for us to continue moving forward, even when its difficult. St. Paul was very aware of this when he penned the words, for when I am weak, I am strong (2 Cor 12:10). Sometimes we get caught in the trap of trying to suffer alone, thinking that asking for Gods help will decrease the effect of our sacrifice. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Our sacrifice lies in the fact that we are willingly offering up our suffering, not that we make it as painful as possible. If God wants to give us peace in the midst of suffering let Him! The Lord knows that we cant do it alone and provides us the needed graces through prayer and the reception of the sacraments. Not taking advantage of His help often borders on pride, thinking that we can do it by ourselves!
If you dont have any major suffering in your life, be grateful and offer up the dozens of minor inconveniences that you experience throughout the day. If you do have major suffering in your life, take consolation in the fact that one day it will end. Until that day arrives, you have the great privilege of sharing in the redemptive suffering of Our Lord, Jesus Christ! Even though it seems illogical, we should strive to be thankful for the gift of suffering in our life and make use of it before it goes away. Since our suffering might end tomorrow (we might find a new job, meet that special someone or recover from our illness), why miss the chance to offer it up today while we still have it? By uniting our suffering to that of Christ, we can all win the crown of salvation and live with Him forever in a kingdom where there is no suffering or pain!
Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal (St. Teresa of Avila).
Gary Zimak is the founder of Following The Truth Ministries (http://www.followingthetruth.com), a lay apostolate created to assist Catholics in learning more about their Faith. He is a regular guest on EWTN Radios Son Rise Morning Show, Ave Maria Radios Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo and appears frequently on several other Catholic radio programs. In addition to writing for CatholicLane. Mr. Zimak hosts a daily program on BlogTalkRadio and posts frequently on his blog, Facebook and Twitter. He is a member of Catholics United For The Faith and the Knights of Columbus and resides in New Jersey.
Thanks for the post I was laid off today, this helps.
Ptayers for you as you look for a new job.
Christmas time, eh? sounds like that employer has no heart at all.
Oh I am so sorry. that is absolutely lousy. I wish God would get us all jobs immediately
Prayers for you to find a new job soon.
Thanks for posting this article.
You will both be in my prayers tonight. God bless you.
Prayers for you to find a job too.
By identifying these minor inconveniences as "suffering," we fail to recognize the irrationality of placing ourselves at the center of all the basic operations of reality.
Thank you for your prayers. :)
Its very lousy I feel so low today, like a failure, but I know God will help me I’m still young, 28, the economy will get better ill find a new job.
I think what many people do not understand is that sometimes life is rotten, and God permits it. Whether it be a broken arm or a broken heart, God will bring good out of it. Once we accept this hard reality, our response to use this suffering as a means of growing in holiness and Christ-like can bring even greater good.
Ironically I was employed by a Catholic company, my very devout boss, decided to let me go a day before the Christmas party. Not a nice person and very heartless.
I’m not bitter towards God and the Church I still love them with all my heart. But I wish my trial will end shortly if it’s His will.
You are in my prayers FRiend.
wow, if you are a conservative in Chicago, I would definitely keep my cards close to the vest.
In my case, I am free lancing, but my last ‘job” for the state, I could not say anything about my political views because I was in the vast minority and even saying anything about my Christian beliefs was problematic because I was working for a non Judeao/non Christian who thought Christianity was ridiculous
The one thing that sucks about losing my job is that in the company I could be as conservative and Christian as I wanted to be because it was part of the company culture. I’m going to miss that because I don think I’ll find a business like that again. Otoh this may be for the best.