Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Joy in Suffering

2 Corinthians 6-10
"6 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Paul’s Hardships
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."

This is not exactly a typical post/article, but more of a compendium of thoughts, readings, etc. on the "problem" of suffering (spoiler alert, it's not a problem after all!). 
I think it is first prudent to understand the definition of joy, and tied to joy also comes peace.

Joy (Greek: chara, Latin: gaudium)

The Greek word for 'joy' is chara, derived from the word charis, which is the Greek word for 'grace.' This is significant to note, for chara is produced by the charis of God. This means 'joy' is not a human-based happiness that comes and goes but, rather, true 'joy' is divine in its origin. It is a Spirit-given expression that flourishes best in hard times. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:6,[11] the Thessalonians were under great stress due to persecution; yet in the midst of it all, they continued to experience great joy. The Greek strongly implies that their supernatural joy was due to the Holy Spirit working in them. Paul even called it the "joy of the Holy Ghost". (Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner)

According to Nehemiah 8:10, "The joy of the Lord is your strength".

Peace (Greek: eirene, Latin: pax)

Peace is the result of resting in a relationship with God.[13] Peace is a tranquility, a state of rest, that comes from seeking after God, or, the opposite of chaos.
The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene strongly suggests the rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-wracking, traumatic, or upsetting...Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing.

So the first thing to understand is that no amount of suffering can overwhelm us while we have the joy of Christ within us, while we rest in the arms of God with peace about us. No waves, no matter how big, can capsize the boat of a man who has let Jesus climb in with him. In actuality, suffering can bring great victory just as the suffering and death of Christ made all things new.


Citing Peter Kreeft on the existence of suffering:
"God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education...God let Job suffer not because God lacked love but precisely out of love, to bring Job to the point of the Beatific Vision of God face to face, which is humanity's supreme happiness. Job's suffering hollowed out a big space in him so that a big piece of God and joy could fill it. Job's experience is pardigmatic for all saintly suffering.

...the doctrine of vicarious atonement [states that] just as the sins of the guilty can harm the innocent, so the sufferings and virtue of the innocent can help redeem the guilty...Vicarious atonement means that even the sufferings that do not seem to do anyone any good may do someone some good...through human solidarity. For the Redeemer was literally our brother, and his suffering saved the whole family."

If our greatest desire is to be Christ-like, should we not then be in the deepest prayer for suffering knowing fully that which has been so perfectly explained by Kreeft above? If we can even begin to comprehend the words of St. Faustina in regards to being “plunged into mortal sorrow at the loss of each soul,” our deepest yearning should be to receive the gift of suffering as a means for the vicarious atonement of the world around us.

We shouldn't ever take for granted what it means that we were born into a country where religious freedom is allowed and where we have been exposed to the Word of God. The whole reason God had a chosen people in the Old Testament wasn't to conceal himself to the rest of the world, it was because he put the free will onus on the Jews to go spread his word. Instead they became corrupt and power hungry, and when Jesus came they were too set in their ways to even realize he was the Messiah, fulfilling all of the prophecies of old. Now it's like we are facing the same thing. We (you and I and all current Christians) are called to live in absolute love of neighbor, to use words when necessary but evangelize always, including but not limited to offering our suffering back to God.
We should pray "thy will be done" in each prayer of petition because we should never be so proud as to insist upon our requests to God. We must trust in his divinely perfect plan for us, always remembering the value yet temporary nature of this life and the blessed hope of the next.

We each have the opportunity to be a Simon of Cyrene to our brethren, to help them carry their crosses. Just like it’s easier to have 30 people haul brush in a field than one person, it’s easier to spread out the suffering of the world than to have it all put on one person…

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is

lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” – Colossians 1:24

Think of suffering in the same way as money, just for analogy’s sake. You give money voluntarily to a charity; that is money you are losing (aka a sacrifice) but will go to help others. There is a chance those funds could be misappropriated, but in a perfect world, someone would benefit. Well, what is the only perfect world? The kingdom of God. And God doesn’t misappropriate “funds.” Making personal sacrifice, giving back the suffering God allows as part of our free will shows so much love, and it truly does, can and will benefit others.

Few have the courage to suffer, which is why I believe it means so much. and courage really is one of the key virtues. It's actually all 4 Cardinal Virtues: Courage, Temperance, Prudence and Justice.
Courage: the courage to suffer in this life knowing it is but a grain of sand in all the beaches of the world
Temperance: the grace to resist temporal pleasures in favor of treasures in Heaven
Prudence: making all decisions for the glorification of God and the unification of his beloved children
Justice: blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! Leave your nets and I will make you fishers of men! Caring for the poor and dejected when no one else will. 

 We see St. Paul rejoicing in suffering repeatedly throughout his epistles! He gets locked in prison, and he and Silas sing hymns of praise!

Kimberly Hahn, in Rome Sweet Home, puts it into some of the most relatable terms. She explains that she had never realized the benefit of suffering until she had two miscarriages and layed in the hospital after a surgery. She could see all of the other families going by with balloons and gifts in celebration of new life, she could even hear the other new borns cry. Then she looked up on the wall, saw the Crucifix, and understood that her suffering paled in comparison to God made man and suffering unto death for her. Not for everyone else, but for her specifically.
A few months later, she was again at the hospital, this time with her 18 month old who had a 105 degree fever. As they dabbed the young girl with cool clothes trying to break the fever, she cried out in pain and agony, "mommy, mommy!" At that moment, God spoke to Kimberly saying, "now do you understand? do you understand that sometimes I must do things that seem wrong/painful to you, as you are doing to your daughter, because I love you and want you to become closer to me?"

We might not always understand why "bad things" happen to us, but instead of wasting our energy dwelling on that which we cannot control, we should instead turn it back to God, always looking for the lesson there within.


Matthew 6:19-21 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
>> is it wrong to enjoy the taste of a beer, wine or good food? not at all. God gave us these things. But choosing to sacrifice them (fasting) could bring someone else to God, even someone we have never met before.

Mark 8:34 - Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
>> Part of this cross means accepting physical, emotional and spiritual suffering and giving it back to God and asking how we can learn from that suffering. It's about realizing that "we are strangers, we are aliens, we are not of this world" and denying ourselves the temporal pleasures of this world in order to bring others to Christ.

Matthew 10:28 “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

2 Timothy 2:11-12
"If we be dead with Christ Jesus, we shall live also with Him," says the Apostle; if we suffer,
we shall also reign with Him."

John 15:20 "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also."
>> If Christ suffered to death to give those who truly believe in and love him salvation, why should we who have been blessed with knowledge of the truth be any different than to suffer to bring others who have no knowledge of him to his most sacred heart?

“We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.” — St. Teresa of Avila

In the words of Padre Pio, "I do not ask for Divine Consolation because I do not merit it, but your presence, Lord, oh yes this I long for!"

“The desire for unworldliness, detachment, and union with God is the most fundamental expression of this revolutionary spirit (the desire to save the world from its present state of sin and debauchery)…Everything we do in the service of God has to be vitalized by the supernatural power of His grace. But grace is granted us in proportion as we dispose ourselves to receive it by the interior activity of theological virtues: faith, hope, love. These virtues demand the full and constant exercise of our intelligence and will. But this exercise is frequently obstructed by exterior influences which blind us with passion and draw us away from our supernatural objective. This cannot be avoided, but it must be fought against by a constant discipline of recollection, meditation, prayer, study, mortification of the desires, and at least some measure of solitude and retirement.” – Thomas Merton in The Ascent of Truth

"The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little." - Thomas Merton

St. Francis of Assisi Novena

Glorious Saint Francis,
who voluntarily renounced
all the comforts and riches of your home
to follow more perfectly the life of poverty
and abnegation of Jesus Christ:
obtain for us,
we pray,
a generous contempt of all things in this world,
that we may secure the true
and eternal things of heaven.

Say the Glory be....

O glorious Saint Francis,
who during the whole course of your life
continually wept over the passion of the Redeemer,
and labour most zealously for the salvation of souls:
obtain for us,
we pray,
the grace of weeping continually
over those sins
by which we have crucified
afresh Our Lord Jesus Christ,
that we may attain to be of the number
of those who shall eternally bless His supreme mercy.

Say the Glory be....

O glorious Saint Francis,
who, loving above all things suffering and the cross,
merited to bear in your body the miraculous stigmata,
by which you became a living image
of Jesus Christ crucified:
obtain for us,
we pray,
the grace to bear in our bodies
the mortifications of Christ,
that we may merit one day
to receive the consolations
which are infallibly promised
to all those who now weep.

Say the Glory be…

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