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Can suffering become a source of new hope and new life for us?
None of us rejoice in the fact that we are suffering, but suffering can produce a change in the direction of our spiritual lives. Our suffering will, hopefully, turn us round to come in closer touch with the presence of God in our lives.
Often, the ultimate goal of suffering is to increase our level of trust in God. It is also an opportunity for our spiritual growth in the time we spend struggling through the throes of pain and suffering. When we trust God, God gives us the hope and courage to look our suffering in the face and to go through the suffering confidently with a renew spirit and heart.
In suffering we may begin to understand God’s plan for us personally. We may get to know Him personally and spiritually and not theoretically or intellectually. For God promises that He has a plan for our lives “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”(Jeremiah 29:11 TEV), and that He has work for us to do: “God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus He has created us for a life of good deeds, which He has already prepared for us to do.”(Ephesians 2:10 TEV) Our present suffering and pain are part of that plan. Pray for solutions; but until they come, let every moment be used to glorify God and to make us toil and struggle for Christ. "God’s plan is to make known His secret to His people, this rich and glorious secret which He has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God.” (Colossians 1:27-28 TEV) Christ, who participated fully in our pain wants us to participate fully in His joy and glory. Jesus the Man of joy wants us to be the people of joy. And joy is buried deeply in the midst of sorrow! Our spiritual transformation comes when, in the midst of our suffering, we can, still, look up and say, “Christ is in me” (Colossians 1:27 TEV) and "I will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my Savior. The Sovereign Lord gives me strength." (Habakkuk 3:18-19 TEV)
The great secret in life is that suffering can become a source of new hope and new life. As no hardened ground can bear fruit if it is not broken up by the plow. In like manner, if our hearts are hard like stone, it will not bear fruit; but our lives can be fruitful if our hearts are opened up and softened through suffering. Our hearts are then renewed and we are born again. We become a re-born human being. Soon, we may come to view our suffering as part and parcel of our journey to the Kingdom of God.
But, can we also accept that suffering is a gift of God just as life is a gift of God? Mother Teresa said that suffering is a gift of God but like all gifts, it depends on how we receive it.
Mother Teresa in "The Best Gift is Love," (97-100) said:
“I wonder what the world would be like if there were not innocent people making reparation for us all...?
Today the passion of Christ is being relived in the lives of those who suffer.
To accept that suffering is a gift of God.
Suffering is not a punishment. God does not punish.
Suffering is a gift—--though, 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.
Suffering is not a punishment. Jesus does not punish.
Suffering is a sign—--a sign that we have come so close to Jesus on the cross, that He can kiss us, show that He is in love with us, by giving us an opportunity to share in His passion.
In our Home for the Dying it is so beautiful to see people who are joyful, people who are lovable, people who are at peace, in spite of terrible suffering.
Suffering is not a punishment not a fruit of sin, it is a gift of God.
He allows us to share in His suffering and to make up for the sins of the world.”
The kingdom of suffering is universal. Everyone suffers. None of us can escape suffering. Suffering is never entirely absent from our lives. Christ’s suffering proved to be the greatest gift of love because through His suffering our sins were atoned for. Christ came to share in our suffering. Christ allows us to share in His suffering. Whatever we suffer He has suffered. He understands our suffering. And our suffering that is shared with the innocent suffering of Christ on the Cross is a gift of God. But how is our suffering a gift of God? Suffering becomes a gift when we have the courage to accept whatever God allows, permits, sends or gives with a smile. When we can still smile through our suffering, it means that Christ is still within us. So we will be less frustrated, resentful, angry or bitter. That is a gift of God. It is also a blessing because our trust in Christ and our patient endurance of suffering encourage others to face and accept with courage their own suffering. We need to remember that when we share in Christ’s suffering we also share in His glory. So, we must never allow our suffering to fill us with so much sorrow and bitterness as to make us forget the joy of the risen Christ. Indeed, suffering can become a means to greater love, greater empathy and greater generosity---that is a gift of God.
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