The true value of suffering

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“BEHOLD, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mt 20,18-19)

With these words, we have to understand that like Christ we have to learn to suffer, to see the redemptive value of suffering. We have to realize that in this life of ours in this world, we can never avoid suffering in one form or another.

Suffering is part of our human condition that is wounded by sin and all sorts of weaknesses and our natural human limitations, and the fact that we are meant to live a supernatural life which we can never attain unless we are truly with God, and the fact is, we seldom are truly with God. We can only be completely suffering-free when we are with God in heaven.

But we are given a way of how to handle our suffering properly, to the extent of converting our suffering as a way to our own salvation and eternal happiness. And that is always to follow the example of Christ as he went through all the suffering in his redemptive life here on earth.

We have to be willing to suffer the way Christ suffered for all of us. That way, we attain the true essence of our humanity which is love, channeling the love of God for us in us. No wonder then that Christ himself said: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15,13)

No wonder also that as St. Peter said in his first Letter, “He (Christ) did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” (2,23) We have to learn to restrain our urge to make revenge whenever we are offended in some way by others.

It is this willingness to suffer that would show how, like Christ, we can go all the way to giving ourselves completely to everyone, irrespective of how they are. That is also why Christ commanded us, as an integral component of true love, that we even love our enemies.

In true love, the lover goes all the way to identifying himself with the beloved with the view of giving the beloved what is objectively good for both the lover and the beloved. There is a kind of unification between the two that is based on what is objectively good for both.

We have to train ourselves to develop this kind of love. And we can use the usual conditions, concerns and circumstances in our daily dealings with others to develop that kind of love. Whenever some differences and conflicts occur among ourselves, we should be willing to suffer for the others, bearing their burdens, even if we also try to sort out and settle these differences and conflicts as peacefully and charitably as possible.

This willingness to suffer should be an active thing, not a passive one, waiting for suffering to come. We have to look for the opportunities to suffer. That would be a real proof that we are truly in love. What is more, such attitude would help us in protecting ourselves from temptations, sins and all other forms of evil!