Suffering tends to be the one concept in our lives and faith that we struggle with the most. We struggle to accept it, understand it, and live through it. When we think of this idea of “finding joy in suffering” it sounds like a complete oxymoron. How can one find joy in suffering? How can joy and suffering even fit together and make sense? What I mean with regards to joy is not the masochistic idea of “pleasure from pain”, but rather the true, real, authentic joy that comes with utter peace of heart, and streams from Christ alone.
One point we need to remember is that God never wanted us to suffer, that was never in His original plan for us. Suffering is a consequence of original sin. Satan twisted what God intended and created, by tempting us to sin and therefore bringing death onto the world. When Christ came down to earth to open to gates of Heaven so we can be saved, He combated Satan by using his own weapon against him. Christ defeated death with His own death, He TRANSFORMED suffering with His own suffering. If we look at suffering on it’s own, yes it makes absolutely no sense for us to want to go through it or to keep it. Therefore we need to bring Christ into our suffering, because only through Him does it become redemptive and have meaning.
St. Therese of Lisieux was very known for her approach to suffering and her beautiful quote of “finding the joy in suffering”. She stressed the fact that suffering not only brings us closer to Christ but also makes us more like Christ. It helps us detach from the world and worldly things, purifies us and helps us grow in virtue. Anytime are put to the test or taken out of our comfort zones, we are given an opportunity to grow and become more like Christ. Moments of suffering are exactly that; they pull us out of our comfort and we are placed in a position where we can truly be transformed. Yes we feel weak and helpless in moments of suffering, but our weakness becomes a moment of incredible strength. St. Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). When we are placed in moments of suffering, we cannot rely on our strength alone, and that is when God is able to truly work through us, if we let Him. St. Therese reminds us that this weakness is not a failure to bear the cross but rather a gain. “It shows Jesus what we can and cannot do. Hence, He feels obliged to come to our assistance.”1
Finding the joy in suffering is more than simply accepting it, it is going beyond our natrual bitterness and pain that we experience and finding that happiness in sacrificing ourselves for Christ and becoming more like Him1. St. Therese calls suffering “one of the most admirable provisions of divine mercy” because of the immense power that it has when we allow God to transform it. “In God’s wisdom it has been transformed into a means of sanctification, a proof of love, [and] an instrument for the salvation of souls.”1
Invite Christ into your suffering, allow it to help you grow and become more like Him, and find the true joy inside it.
- Jamart, François. 1961. Complete spiritual doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux. New York: St. Paul Publications
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