Monday, January 24, 2011

"Can we talk about suffering?"

Forum Poster:  I have been given the opportunity by God to offer Him some unique sufferings at this point in my life. It's brought up many questions for me about suffering, how to offer it as a prayer, how certain saints longed for it or at least embraced it with joy, and how to direct others I encounter to focus their attention to Christ...

The theology of suffering is a purely Christian reality and doctrine. Christ came to teach us how to suffer and to give meaning to sufferings. It is something which cannot be fully understood by the intellect but can be accepted if one loves enough. Sufferings seem to be bearable when we suffer because of someone we love- be they be parents, siblings, husband, wife, or a special person. Love makes all things bearable. We do not have to love our sufferings with  sensible feelings, but we can accept and bear with them because we know in our mind that they have a reason and purpose, and because we think of the beloved.  Human nature will react in its own way to sufferings, but it means nothing. Embracing the cross for the sake of love- love for God and love for others- makes it purposeful and meaningful The cross need not be oppressive. It can be redemptive.

Forum Poster:  When I remove the bandages on my hand (to clean it or do the therapy exercises) I am repulsed by its appearance, and by the damage to it. My human response is horror and disgust. But through God's grace I can give a joyful "yes" to God for and through this suffering and the opportunity to grow through these experiences.
 The day of the accident (Palm Sunday) I had engaged in a beautiful conversation with a friend about suffering -- as a prayer, as a means of opening to grace, as a gift. We discussed suffering that occurs in life without our control, as well as suffering that we take on voluntarily (like giving up sweets for Lent ) We had so many questions, but also a commitment to understanding and growing in this area.
 How do we offer our sufferings as a prayer? Is it simply making acts of faith and love through the life's sufferings? Is it completing our obligations in spite of natural inclinations or physical limitations? Can it be more of an attitude (one of surrender and trust) than a specific prayer? Can we use specific prayers to offer our sufferings?

You can teach us on sufferings more than I can because you are bearing your cross now! But turning sufferings into n act of prayer is all of the things you mentioned. I think a deep conversion of heart and mind makes one capable of bearing sufferings. The person can be as creative as one can be in making use of these crosses. Let love lead you to wherever it takes you- when one loves, one becomes very creative. The spirituality of St. Therese is a great help in someone who suffers tremendously. She teaches us that prayer is a sigh of the heart, a lifting up of one's being to God. A sigh of pain, a silent plea for relief, a cry of the heart, can all be turned to efficacious ways to move the heart of God who loves us. Therese also teaches us that sufferings can make one humble because they can reveal to us what we are truly like: impatient, cowards, complaining, angry, despairing. But even these can be turned into prayer and moments of grace if we surrender and accept our littleness and helplessness. In her words, everything is grace. Her words, "How happy I am to know that I am weak and in need of so much mercy!" The Holy Spirit will inspire you to pray as you ought. He will teach you the best way to turn your sufferings into something productive. Your part is to remain surrendered and abandoned to wherever the hand of God takes you.

This is a grace we all desire and we all need.

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