The Value of Not Suffering

3:47:00 PM

I used to worry about suffering: If it was so valuable, would God keep sending it to me? I lost hope that I would ever experience joy again.

Thomas died and I suffered and I had no idea what it all meant. I constantly cried to God, “Why?” and one day I started to understand just a little.

I realised that suffering isn’t meaningless at all. In fact it is very valuable. And for the first time in my life, I knew I had something big to give back to God. I could accept the suffering and offer it for the salvation of souls, including my own.

Suffering day in and day out is not easy. I felt like I was drowning. Many times I fell down and never wanted to get up again. I didn’t want to say, “God, if you allow me to suffer, then I will accept it.” I wanted to cry, “I have had enough. Please take away the pain. I want to feel joy once more.” But the grief seemed never ending and joy seemed a long way off, so I did my best to be patient and make the most of my opportunity to earn grace for souls.

I read the writings of saints who were intimate with suffering and I decided that I was going to be a saint too. Thomas’ short life and my intense pain would not go to waste. I started to think in terms of, “Will this advance my journey to heaven? Will this help save souls?” I wanted to choose the more difficult path and embrace pain. I was convinced that the fastest and surest way to become holy was through suffering.

I shared my thoughts about suffering with my children:  there is nothing more important than suffering for God; this world is in dire need of the graces obtained from suffering; anything that doesn’t involve suffering is worthless…

I was convinced this was true… almost. The saints seemed to find joy in their suffering and want nothing else. But some days I faltered. I looked at other people who were happy and involved with the ordinary things of life and deep down, I yearned to be like them too. I especially wanted to feel the joy of new life. Although I tried very hard to suppress the desire for another child, I couldn’t quite succeed.

Eventually, we did find out that I was pregnant again. I expected to feel great happiness but instead, I was afraid. I went to see a priest: “Father, if suffering is so valuable perhaps God will take this child from us too. Our suffering would be far more useful than our joy.”

The priest replied, “God doesn’t want us only to suffer. He wants us to experience joy as well. He wants to give us a taste of heaven here on earth. You should celebrate the new life you have been given.”

We never did have that baby. Our celebration was short-lived despite Father’s words. And so I continued to suffer.

But eventually I knew I could never be a victim soul. I was tired. I needed happiness here in this world and so did my family. I wanted to experience more than suffering. I prayed and I hoped. Gradually I began to take pleasure in the ordinary things of life and my heart healed. I think I could have been happy with that alone but God blessed us with another child. He sent us joy.

I think back to that time when suffering was the focus of our life. When I tried to convince myself and our children that suffering was everything. Nothing else was important. I thought we could survive without the lighter things of life but we couldn’t. Life, which was already painful, became intense and narrow and even heavier to bear.

I still think suffering is infinitely valuable. I try and accept any suffering God allows, and I hope I am prepared to suffer deeply again if that is what God asks. I know I have to offer up sacrifices of my own making. I share all this with my children. But I no longer teach them that everything other than suffering is worthless.

God is not only found in pain. His love can be found in laughter and smiles and hugs. His beauty is reflected in the good things of this world. His joy can be discovered in all the extraordinary ordinary things of this life. There is the sorrow of the Passion, but there is also the hope and joy of the Resurrection. We can't have one without the other. We need to know both. We often say such things as, "It was worth all the pain." Perhaps it is only because of joy, we are able to bear suffering.

I think of the day we brought Sophie home after her birth. As I walked through the front door with her in my arms, all the children cheered. On the wall was a homemade banner saying, “Welcome home Sophie!” It wasn’t until they saw their little sister, that they could believe she was going to join our family. We hugged. We laughed. We loved. We felt God in all His goodness. It was a moment of joy, not suffering. It was an important moment, a valuable moment. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

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