Monday, March 27, 2006

The Spirituality of Suffering

God is not a cruel God; He is a Loving Father, who wishes to give us, His children every good thing. But Despite God's goodness and His love for us, still we suffer with illnesses and other disorders. But our Heavenly Father does not run on `whimsy' or send as `punishments' an illness upon His child, for God is also the Great Healer! Blessed Mother Teresa understood this aspect of suffering when she said, "Today the passion of Christ is being relived in the lives of those who suffer. Suffering is not a punishment. God does not punish."

At times we must also take responsibility for our own health, and not blame God, when through bad decisions or bad habits we become ill. For instance, smoking is now well known for causing cancer, and other complications. Abusing alcohol will also hold serious consequences when it comes to the liver and brain. Food too can be hazardous when we overeat the wrong foods which can lead to obesity, and the ensuing complications that goes with it. Even things as cosmetic surgery can lead to serious health problems for many people. If we behave immorally and lead a dissolute life then we also open ourselves to other diseases that will attack our body.

But God does not create diseases nor does God `bless' a person with illness for our Loving God is just that loving and only wanting our well being. But when illness does strike, then God will not let us think that we have become `useless' and a `burden', instead He leads us into expiation and reparation for our sins and the sins of others. For even in illness we are not burdensome or useless to Him, through His Son Jesus who suffered a horrific and ignominious death on a Cross, so we too can join Jesus in our suffering by offering our own pain in conjunction with the sufferings of Jesus. For nothing we do is `useless' to our Father in Heaven, and everything is `gift' to Him who needs us not, yet longs for our love with the deepest of yearnings. God will help us as we suffer to join Jesus in the redemptive power of the suffering soul to intercede and in reparation offer our sufferings to Him, who is all Powerful, for the salvation of souls. That great Saint and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila understood totally the Gift that can be reparative suffering for as she wrote, "Lord, either to suffer or to die....Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."

Suffering only becomes a useless thing when we do not utilise the redemptive qualities of illness, and choose to resent rather than consent on this painful journey of total dependence on our Loving Father. God legitimises suffering as Holy, thereby bestowing and restoring our uniqueness and our value in His Loving Plan for the redemption of all men. Saint John of the Cross also understood the Gift that which is given to few souls for as he cautioned those who had been Graced with this Gift, "what more do you want, O soul! And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfactions, fullness and kingdom-your Beloved whom you desire and seek? Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with Him, for you have Him so close to you."

We must also take into account the degeneration of our body as we mature, which is entirely consistent with Gods plan of bringing us to Himself, when the time comes for us to depart this world for out Heavenly Kingdom, where God has prepared a place for each one of us. The great writer C. S. Lewis through his own anguish came to realise the paradox of this unwanted Gift when he said, "God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pains. Pain is His megaphone to rouse a dulled world."

So illness in itself is not a gift from God, but it can be our gift to Him, when we incorporate the self sacrifice of the One who showed the Way, to pick up our cross, and with courage and fortitude, say as did our Lord, "not my will, but Your Will be done"…even it is one step at a time. As Mother Teresa explained to those who did not understand the connection between suffering people and how God can use our own pain and anguish for His Glory, expressed it this way, "Without our suffering, our work would be just social work - it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption." These words were not uttered from a heart that did not know suffering for though Mother Teresa worked in her community serving the poor she too was suffering both physically and enduring the 'dark night of the soul in her interior life. Mother Teresa expanded on the need for suffering souls in a world grown gluttonous with luxuries with these enlightening words, "Like all gifts, it depends on how we receive it. And that is why we need a pure heart to see the hand of God, to feel the hand of God, to recognize the gift of God in our suffering. He allows us to share in his suffering and to make up for the sins of the world."

To the sufferer it is only God who can ennoble the soul during its suffering by making that soul one with the Man of Sorrows who unlike us, was sinless and suffered in our place. We too gain a sense of dignity when we look to our Lord and Savior and Him Crucified for Love's sake, as we unite our pains and anguish to His for love of God and our fellow man. As our society leans more and more towards a culture of death we can see the aspect of souls lost due to those who refuse the Gift of suffering and instead choose to end their lives not in an act of 'mercy killing' but in a spirit of despair that has locked God out of the equation.

We should not look to suffer for sufferings sake but when suffering does come our way then let us embrace it as a kiss from the Beloved to his loved one, St. Therese of Lisieux understood this when she wrote, "I realize that one will love the good God better for all eternity because suffering borne with joy! And, by suffering one can save souls."

To suffer for loves sake is to become one with the Divine, an embrace of unequal love as God lifts us to Himself as He immerses us in the fiery depths of His Tremendous Love.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

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