Redemptive Suffering and Why I am Bad at It
Last week, I was not able to write a post for Truth & Charity. In fact, I was not able to do much of anything for about three days because I was very sick. My wonderful husband took time from his paper writing, class prep, and research to take care of the kids while I did the minimum for the baby. I would like to say that I was a very gracious sick person, but I was not. Throughout my sickness, I thought to myself from time to time that I should be offering up my sufferings for something or someone, at least for my family and I even managed a few Hail Marys here and there, but all too quickly my attempts at prayer turned into focus on my discomfort.
It is so easy to get caught up in ourselves when we are suffering. The last thing we want to think of is someone else. One could say it is natural to focus on the pain, but what is the supernatural response? St. Paul wrote: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” (Colossians 1:24) What does that even mean? If you want the long version then please, forget my ramblings and go and read Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris on the meaning of Christian suffering. In the event that you are still here, I will try and explain. Christ redeemed human suffering by voluntarily taking on the suffering of his death. Our suffering is no longer meaningless and this means that we can unite our sufferings with Christ, and participate in His bringing about of our salvation. Blessed John Paul II said that “thus to share in the sufferings of Christ is, at the same time, to suffer for the Kingdom of God” (Salvifici Doloris 21). This means that we can make our suffering a prayer, an offering, as Christ did.
How can this be done practically? When I was in unmedicated labor with my newest daughter there was one contraction (only one unfortunately) that I stopped focusing on the pain and decided to pray for someone. The pain of that one very intense contraction was lessened in some way; it no longer felt unbearable but felt like it had more meaning. I know it is hard to do, and I confess that I am terrible at offering up my sufferings. I usually complain about them and realize after the fact that I could have been helping the Kingdom of God instead of making everyone annoyed by my complaints. So, maybe this little post will help remind me and you to “offer it up” because it is good for us all.