I was reading in the book of Job this morning with a group of people, and we were discussing the topic of suffering- which seems so relevant in this time. A few thoughts that surfaced:
- We try to solve other people’s problems or to make sense of things- as Job’s friends, with undoubtedly the best of intentions, did. But somethings aren’t ever going to make sense to us, and sometimes as friends the best thing to do is to just accompany someone in silence. I started reading the book “The Power of Silence” the other day, by Cardinal Sarah. What a beautiful and profound book that is. I find I have to read it in small bits and just think about it. Much of it focuses on the noise that we live in – both externally and in our own heads, and the importance of silencing that noise to be able to hear God. So often we just talk too much, even with the best of intentions.
- We live in a culture that worships youth, but like so many things, we have that wrong too. The beauty of aging is that you see that suffering is the normal part of life in a fallen world. When I was young and had loss or tragedy hit me, I thought that was the unusual part of life. Now, like most other people of a certain age, I know that the abnormal part of life is when there are no problems- that is a blessing that we can relish, but the norm is tragedy because we live in a sin filled world. The next life is the one we can look forward to, to live in holiness and without the blemish of sin- not now.
- Suffering causes us to be purified. Most of us can look back over our lives and see that the growth came not when things are good, but when times were hard. That’s when we grow closer to God, or shed some behavior that isn’t serving us. The book “Catholic Martyrs of the 20th Century” by Robert Royal is a sobering and uplifting look at the reality of suffering for those who are closest to God. We see that in the cross- if Jesus who was without sin suffered so greatly, why would we avoid it? And our suffering can bring us closer to our Lord, and can also be offered up as a sacrifice to help others such as the poor souls in purgatory.
Embracing suffering seems entirely counter to human nature, but it is what we are called to do. Like Job we can ask God about the purpose that the suffering is meant to serve in our lives (and we may not get an answer), but we need to make sure that our trials bring us closer to the Lord and not cause us to turn away. This life is short, and we can endure- and pray for our own strength and the strength of others- to finish the race well.