Here is surely the most common question anyone ever asked about life. The answer to this question is both deep and demanding. Our Lord Himself, experiencing the most complete abandonment in His human feelings cried out “My God, my God why have You abandoned me?”
What is this deepest meaning of suffering?
A testimony of persecution
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The psalms which the church prays daily from morning to night all around the world repeatedly ask this question in various ways, and indeed it was from psalm 22 that the Savior was praying the words just quoted to express the depth of His painful passion. It is true that suffering is the result of sin, but it is very important for us to see suffering in its deepest meaning if we are not to get a wrong impression of God’s work in the world. What is this deepest meaning of suffering?
Surely it is not that an angry God inflicts vengeance on His poor, feeble creatures just to spite them. We see that this cannot be the case since we know that sinless persons, Our Lord and His Blessed Mother suffered more than anyone else ever did. The suffering person may feel as though God were angry with him or her, but the suffering endured is really coming from God’s goodness and love. How so?
Our Lord commanded us to love Him with our whole heart...
Quite simply, whenever the human heart clings to one good in preference to another, this means that the heart is separated, divided from the good it rejected in order to hold on to the good it chose. This division, this separation is painful even when we are choosing something we desire, for it means being separated from the things we have not chosen. Sometimes these things are still making a claim on our hearts, and the awareness we are giving them up makes us suffer. Thus when we choose to sin, the choice causes suffering in us because God still draws us to Himself.
When we choose God, then we experience the loss of the sinful things we desired before and they still call to us to take them back. Our Lord commanded us to love Him with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and eventually that “whole” means that we have to accept willingly the loss of any other things which our heart, mind, and soul may have desired: possessions, bodily health, relationships, and even life itself in order to be with the Lord, to love Him absolutely.
He directs our lives like the mysteries of the Rosary...
The root of suffering is thus nothing less than love, Divine Love, staking a claim on our hearts. That is why the saints suffered so much, because their love for God was so pure and intense. This kind of love purifies from sin and makes up for sin and so it can cause suffering even in the sinless. The happy truth about this “separating” quality of God’s love, is that it leads to the perfect happiness of heaven, when, after the trials of this earthly life “God will be all in all.” The apostle Paul tells us “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him” and he goes on to say about Christ’s sufferings “He for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame.”
In the end, the fruit of suffering is found in the joy of possessing perfectly in the life to come the God whom we have loved in this world. In the meantime, though, Our Lord does not usually let us be overwhelmed with sorrows, He directs our lives like the mysteries of the Rosary, through joys and sorrows to the bright light of heavenly glory. Let us persevere then, and pray for our fellow Christian strugglers throughout the world, and accept both the consequences of our sins and the consequences of our love for God by taking up our cross daily and following Him.
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