Our culture is obsessed with instant gratification, and none of us are exempt from being affected by this. Think of how fast we can get an answer from Siri, have dinner delivered right to our door, or become an expert from YouTube tutorials. Or just think of how quickly your blood pressure rises when your internet is slow. We’ve simply come to expect effortless efficiency.
And yet, life isn’t always easy.
We know that suffering comes.
We know that not a single human “has a choice of whether he will go through life with or without suffering, because this is to a great extent beyond his control. But each one has this choice: Will the suffering open on a Cross and therefore see the joy beyond, or will it be closed to the Cross and therefore be the beginning of hell on earth?”¹
These words of Venerable Fulton Sheen are a stark reminder that though suffering is inevitable, we do have a choice in the matter. We can choose how we respond, and to some extent, how suffering changes us. We can choose to take up our crosses and follow Christ, as he exhorted us to do. We can look to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross and unite our suffering to his, participating in our own redemption.
“Everywhere else in the world we are spectators,” Fulton Sheen says, “but, facing the vision of the cross, we pass from spectatorship to participation.”²
He identifies two themes our reaction to suffering usually contains: rebellion or resignation. And I think we all can challenge ourselves in considering how we personally react when faced with hard things.
“The difference is due to the fact that this person [who rebels] sees no purpose in pain. And when there’s no purpose seen, no final destiny, when pain is just as opaque as a curtain, then it’s rather natural for the soul to revolt against it. When one can see a purpose in it, see it as a means, see it transparent, and as opening onto something else, then there can be resignation.”
Do you see any point in pain? Or do you rebel against it and complain?
I think we need to renew our hope in there being a point to suffering. We need to be brave facing suffering, because it’s not just something horrible to endure. And it is not just up to us. God is walking with us, and never leaves us to walk through a valley alone. He is with us and invites us to open ourselves to a process of transformation.
We remember the suffering of Jesus’ passion and death, but there was a point to that, and a resurrection that wasn’t possible without Good Friday. When we unite our suffering to his redemption on the cross, we remember that our simple choice to resign ourselves to suffering will bring a resurrection too. We may or may not see it this side of heaven. But there is a point in pain, a higher purpose, and we can choose to embrace that or not. There is hope in this, even in the thick of difficulty.
We need more than the revolution of love Pope Francis calls for, though love is at the heart of what we do. We need a revolution of bravery – people who face the inevitable suffering life brings with the inner confidence that God does not forsake his children. We need to know in our innermost being that God is good, all the time. And we can choose to suffer well when suffering comes.
He calls us to participate in the cross in big and small ways every single day. Let our reaction to this be brave and bold in our God who already showed us how this ends. Let us allow suffering to transform our hearts and lives one small step at a time.
Want to read more on this month’s theme of suffering? Read Alicia’s post Usurped as Queen of Lenten Sacrifice here.
Wondering where in Fulton Sheen’s books you can find these quotes?
- Three to Get Married, page 192
- Peace of Soul, page 80
Do you suffer well? Let’s discuss in the comments how to transform this part of our lives.