How do you deal with suffering?
This is a question that I have been asked more often than usual lately, and there really is no quick answer. Because I’m a Catholic with a disabling disease — who has written a book called It’s Good to Be Here, no less — I think that people want me to speak directly about redemptive suffering, about the mystery of how my suffering united with Christ’s has redemptive power. But redemptive suffering is such a thick and heavy concept, such a profound mystery, that I can’t explain it. Admittedly, I usually don’t even know how to participate in it.
Throughout my life, I’ve been told to offer up my pain and suffering in union with Christ’s on the Cross. I’ve always had difficulty with this, particularly when I wasn’t well educated in the Faith and didn’t know what it meant but even now that I am maturing in faith and understanding. I get the first part about recognizing my life as an offering to God, our benevolent and loving Creator. Through prayerful experiences, education, and personal insights, I have come to realize that my life is a gift given to me by God and that I am truly fulfilled as a human being when I offer myself — my entire life — as a “thank you” to God, grateful for His loving goodness and honoring His unfathomable power.
But I don’t think that I can honestly say that I’m thankful for suffering.
I am little. I am limited. But I know that I am loved. And, yes, I do sometimes experience the profound depths of God’s love when I am in the midst of pain or sorrow. How? By deeply considering how God has chosen to live as a little, limited human being like me. The mystery of the Incarnation fills me with sacred wonder and awe.
What has puzzled me about redemptive suffering is the uniting of my suffering with the suffering of Christ on the Cross. Who am I to be able to join my human experiences with the divinely lived experiences of God in the flesh, uniting my suffering with the suffering of Jesus Christ? I don’t have that power. I don’t have that ability. I am merely human and too limited to effect such a union.
I can’t join my sufferings with the sufferings of Christ.
Good thing God already has.
Sometimes it sounds like people are saying that suffering is a gift given to us by God in order for us to more closely emulate Jesus Christ. However, the reason that we suffer is not so that we can be like Christ. The reason that Christ suffered was so that He could be like us. This is my approach in understanding and dealing with suffering.
Through seven reflections here, I will be journeying into the heart of my own pain, sadness, fear, and suffering in order to better know who I am, what the true difficulties of my life are, and why certain aspects of my life may be holding me back from a full, thorough “thank you” to God and, so, from my own fulfillment. I won’t be taking this journey alone, for it is a universally human journey, one that you, dear reader, will recognize and share as you examine your own struggles with mine. Amazingly, it’s the journey that infinite and eternal God knows, too, because He chose to experience our human struggles in the flesh. In the light of Christ, the fullness of being human is divinely revealed, and so it is only by this light that we can see and become who we fully are.
To that end, every week during the season of Lent, I will meditate upon a particular hardship or heartache of my life and of Christ’s life. I hope and trust that He will guide me along the climbing way, going before me always, and yet following in my stumbling footsteps, receiving my little humanity and giving me all of His divine love.
Let’s approach Lent in littleness, with humble minds and hearts. Let us lay open our vulnerabilities before the Lord, who Himself was little, vulnerable, and suffering like us.Tweet
© 2020 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.