Is suffering a blessing from God?
It is a precarious concept to open your mind and heart enough to ponder if suffering is a blessing from God. When I first began to write about this topic, I felt as if it was an assignment given to me directly by God, because it is a question I have thought about often throughout my life and most recently with the tragic and unexpected passing of my 34 year-old cousin who had recently became a father to his adopted daughter and first-born son.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.” (2 Corinthians 1: 5-7)
On this journey of being open to life and receiving a clear “wait” and “not right now” from God, the emotional suffering I have endured has seemed like an almost impossible position to be in. It has changed my perspective on everything – my relationships, my environment, my marriage, my vocation – and through all the suffering, I have arrived at immense freedom. My mind and heart have been converted to deeply living the word of God, rather than falling victim to it, attending Mass without intentionality or reading the Bible without presence. Remaining in hope that God can change my circumstances at any time has eased me from a place of frustration and fear to joy and excitement, knowing that what God has in store for my life is better than I could have ever planned or imagined. It has also deepened my realization of the precious gift every human life is that God has literally been willed into existence through love in action. If you let them, pregnancy and motherhood can become idols on this journey, and idols only lead to suffering.
“I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow the statues and be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36: 25-27)
The question we’re exploring today has biblical roots when we consider the way stories of suffering are interwoven through sacred scripture; again and again God points us to understanding it is only through suffering we can begin to understand our powerlessness and the importance of turning towards Him and not away. Suffering helps us develop a clean and humble heart which in turn allows us to love God and our neighbor, to think less of ourselves and more of self-sacrificial love. Self as a gift, rather than an entitlement to receive all things good.
In many modern Christian circles today, there is an attitude and ignorance toward the Catholic stance on the theology of the body, the womb, and the dignity of life. I hear from my non-denominational friends and family in Christ, “the Bible doesn’t say you can’t do IVF,” or even better, “God created science, would you not get a heart replacement if your heart started failing?” This is a controversial topic for couples struggling to align their hearts to God’s will amid many cultures that adapt God’s will to fit their needs and preferences. This has all led me to suffer emotionally with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and being misunderstood. But somewhere along the road, I started to realize I was thinking way too much about what others think and not enough about what God does. When God put a calling on my life, it was not a conference call.
Sister in Christ, I pray for you the same way St. Paul prayed for the Ephesians in the scripture below. I pray that you may find peace in Christ and know that you are truly loved and held in such an anointed way. To suffer for Christ is a privilege and you might be the only one nearby to accept the challenge. We know how the story ends, and God will not forsake us.
“I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory.” (Ephesians 3:13)
Do you believe suffering is a blessing from God?
Ask one of the closest people in your life this week if they believe suffering is a blessing from God. How did the conversation go?
The book of Job was the first biblical story that came to mind when I meditated on this question. Which biblical story first comes to your mind?
How has infertility become a blessing in your life?
Why do you think God has allowed this in your life?
What does it mean to you to do God’s will?