How our attitude toward suffering should be

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

IT should be clear in our mind that our attitude toward the unavoidable suffering we are going to have in this life should be inspired by our Christian faith. We should never treat it from a purely human point of view, guided only by our instincts, feelings and even by our sophisticated human estimation of things. We would never understand the value of suffering that way.

In the gospel of Thursday after Ash Wednesday, (cfr. Lk 9,22-25) we are clearly told by Christ that if we want to follow him, we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. In other words, when we suffer in any form, we should avoid suffering by ourselves only. We have to suffer always with Christ. Only then can our suffering acquire some meaning and great value.

We have to remind everyone that when we suffer, we should see to it that we avoid suffering by our own lonesome. That would make our suffering, whatever may be its cause, whether it is self-inflicted or caused by others, a useless and purely negative event.

Truth is our suffering can have tremendous meaning and positive effect on us if we go through it always with Christ. If we go by our Christian faith, we are sure that Christ is ever willing to suffer for us and with us, and to convert our suffering into the very means of our salvation, in fact.

There is no human suffering that Christ is not willing to make also as his own. And he does it because he loves us, he wants to save us, he wants to bring us back to him. Let’s remember that his love is first of all gratuitous. He loves us first before we can learn to love him in return.

Christ loves us even if, according to our human standards, we do not deserve to be loved. Let’s never forget that because of this love, he, being God, emptied himself to become man, and still went further by assuming all our sins by going through his passion and death on the cross and by his resurrection.

It is in the nature of love, as revealed and lived fully by Christ, that the lover identifies himself with the beloved, and leads his beloved to the highest good. That’s what Christ precisely did for us and continues to do. He adapted himself to us in all the possibilities of our human condition to lead us to himself, our highest good since he is the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity.

What St. Paul said about being “all things to all men” (cfr. 1 Cor 9,22) can first be applied to Christ. Christ went all the way to become like sin, even if he did not commit sin, if only to save us. (cfr. 2 Cor 5,21) He was not averse to any kind of suffering caused by our sin. In fact, he embraced the cross to assume all the suffering that we can have in this life.

All these truths of our faith should reassure us and fill us with peace, hope and joy. We have to continually process these truths so that they can really enter deep in our consciousness and become the very germ of our attitude toward any kind of suffering we may encounter in life.