Suffering has no meaning – unless Jesus rose from the dead.
The Son of God became man so that He could share in our humanity and raise us up to His divinity.
In becoming man, while He did not sin, He accepted the wages of sin – suffering and death.
By rising, He conquered suffering and death, and gave to all mankind the opportunity to follow Him and do the same.
Our suffering, from the everyday slights to the terminal diseases, has no meaning, unless we unite it to the suffering of Jesus.
When we unite our suffering to His, we share, in however small a way, in His Passion. And He only needs us to give Him the smallest bit of space in our hearts to get to work, to transform our hearts until they are burning with the love that is in His Sacred Heart, the love that unites Him with His Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.
Uniting suffering with the Lord is both easy and hard to do. Easy in that there’s no special prayer to memorize. Anything along the lines of “Jesus, I unite this suffering with your Passion. Please use my suffering for the salvation of souls.” Just say it from the heart. You can pray for a special intention or just offer it up – Jesus knows where it is most needed. If you need suggestions, here are nine groups of people to pray for, per the Divine Mercy Novena Jesus taught to Saint Faustina. You can offer up your sufferings each day to a different group.
The hard part is doing it. Either doing it in the midst of everyday annoyances or bone-crushing pain. In the case of the former we’re apt to let our little grievances fester, driving us away from God and each other. But offering up those moments we transform them into acts of love. Think about that! Just as God took the worst thing that ever happened (the Lord’s Passion) and turned it into the best thing (His Resurrection), we can do our own little versions of taking our difficult moments and transforming them into something good.
Saint Faustina shared a remarkable story about saving souls by offering up something small. As she was starting to crochet, she asked for “the grace of conversion to as many souls as the [number of] stitches” she would make with her crochet hook. Jesus replied, “My Daughter, too great are your demands.” Saint Faustina reminded the Lord that “for You it is easier to grant much rather than a little.” Jesus said that was true, “but every conversion of a sinful soul demands sacrifice.” Saint Faustina replied that her superiors had forbidden her from performing acts of penance (likely due to her chronic illness), and she reminded Jesus “that for thirty years You were saving souls by just this kind of work.” Jesus said, “My dear daughter, I comply with your request.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, entry 961)
Offering up our suffering is most challenging when the cross is the heaviest, like the death of loved one, or a terminal illness. Easy to write about it, quite another thing to go through. Just remember that Jesus is there with us through the storm. If He uses the little sufferings for good, he uses the great sufferings for the greatest good. In these moments we are closest to His Heart. In these moments we become saints.
“Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Savior; in suffering love becomes crystallized; the greater the suffering, the greater the love.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, entry 57 – these are her words).
“Oh, if only the suffering soul knew how it is loved by God, it would die of joy and excess of happiness! Some day, we will know the value of suffering, but then we will no longer be able to suffer. The present moment is ours.” (Diary of Saint Faustina, entry 963 – these are her words).
For further reading:
- “A Pope’s Answer to the Problem of Pain” by Christopher Kaczor.
- “The Problem of Suffering Reconsidered” by Peter Kreeft
Image: Pieta by el Greco (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).