BY: FR. ROBERTO JORVINA
Suffering is included in God’s plan for us. In western cultures suffering is seen as very bad, to be avoided at all costs, and sometimes even an indication that something is very wrong. It is considered abnormal. Unfortunately, most western Christian cultures hold an inadequate theology of suffering also. We must hold on to a true biblical view on suffering. God’s view is absolutely essential to be able to handle suffering well. God’s word clearly shows that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life, especially suffering for Christ. (Dr. Ken Williams)
Our Lord Jesus Christ prepares his disciples on this…
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matthew 5:10-11)
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. (Luke 21:12-13)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10)
The Christian sees suffering as a great gift from God. It is a gift of mercy by which we are being led to repentance and eternal life. It is also a gift by which we know that God is working some great good in us. In addition, it is another sort of divine gift, an opportunity to give something great to God, just as Christ did in accepting His sufferings. For a Christian, suffering is an opportunity to participate in Christ’s sufferings, sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings. (Brian Cross, A Catholic Reflection on Suffering, August 9, 2009)
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him” (Phil.1.29).
“To this [suffering] you were called...” (1 Pet.2.21).
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. (Col 1:24)
“through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22)
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
The early Christian martyrs all had the same attitude. Why did the early Christians rejoice in their suffering? They saw this present world already, as it were, from the perspective of the life to come. Suffering for Christ, in this present life, is a great honor, when seen from the Divine perspective. And this is the Catholic Christian perspective, that when we suffer, our suffering is an opportunity both to grow in our faith and love for God, but also to honor and glorify God, by loving Him in the midst of our sufferings, and so storing up an incomparable reward in the life to come.
... in our suffering we are given the great gift, through our union with Christ, of participating in Christ’s own sufferings. Our suffering is not meaningless, but meaningful precisely because it is joined to Christ’s own sufferings, as a sharing in His suffering. (Ibid)
In Romans 8, St. Paul writes:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
This is the full gospel; it is a gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”