“She’s such a good person? Why does she have to suffer?”
“I don’t want to go through this pain. I am afraid.”
Suffering is something that no one wants to endure. It is scary, lonely, difficult, and painful—whether it is physical, spiritual, mental, or emotional.
But suffering is part of life in this fallen world; it is completely unavoidable.
Jesus suffered. Mary suffered. The saints suffered. And at some point, all of us will suffer in one way or another.
This may sound like a harsh reality. Perhaps it is.
Suffering Can Lead to Redemption
But the Lord does not allow our suffering to be meaningless. Rather, the mystery of suffering offers redemption. It invites us to participate in the salvific work of the Cross. It leads us to Heaven. And our own suffering also helps others in their ongoing conversion toward Christ.
We see evidence for this in Sacred Scripture:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” // Romans 5:3-5
“I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” // Colossians 1:24
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” // Romans 8:18
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms these truths:
By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion // CCC 1505
Moreover, “suffering can also have a redemptive meaning for the sins of others” (CCC 1502).
We Are Not Alone
Of course, even redemptive suffering is difficult. In the midst of it, we can grow weary and can even lose our faith.
The Lord knows that we cannot endure any type of suffering alone. Nor does He want us to. He invites us to entrust our sufferings to Him so that He can give us the grace we need to suffer well, to unite our sufferings to His, and to remain hopeful in the redemptive promises attached to our personal suffering.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” // 2 Corinthians 12:9
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Books about Suffering
In addition to Scripture and the Catechism, which offer a plethora of encouragement in the midst of suffering, there are wonderful books that offer guidance and support, too. They explain the redemptive nature of suffering. And they extend comfort and consolation, while enduring personal suffering.
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis considers a universal question: “If God is good and all-powerful, why does He allow suffering?” With compassion and wisdom, Lewis answers this question and offers hope to a world in desperate need of healing.
Suffering: The Cross of Christ and Its Meaning for You by Dom Hubert van Zeller demonstrates how the 14 Stations of the Cross teach us how to transform our failures into victories, as well as how to ease another’s suffering by emulativing Mary’s compassion at the foot of the Cross. This book explains the purpose of suffering, and through Christ’s Passion, we can learn how to bear our own crosses with patience and perseverance.
Learning From Others
He Leadeth Me is the true story of Father Walter Czizek, who was captured by the Russian army during World War II and falsely convicted of being a Vatican spy. He spent 23 years in Soviet prison and labor camps. Through his complete reliance on God’s will, Father Czizek endured extreme hardships and lived to tell others of the fortitude he found in prayer, which gave him an inner peace amidst the horrific evil that surrounded him.
Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza is her personal account of surviving the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Most of Immaculee’s family was ruthlessly murdered, but she survived because of a local pastor’s courage and kindness. For three months, she and seven other women hid in his cramped bathroom. During those long, terrifying days, Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, especially the Rosary. She emerged from the bathroom hideout with a love so strong she was able to forgive her family’s killers.
Entrusting Ourselves to God
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness by Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and Blessed Claude de la Colombière is a spiritual classic that invites readers to “be still and know that” God is in control, and He will never send us a trial too difficult to endure. But we must learn how to surrender to God’s will, which will ultimately help us to attain serenity in this world and salvation in the next.
Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade explains that true abandonment to God is a trusting, peaceful, and childlike surrender, which is guided by grace. This book encourages readers to be present to the moment by accepting our everyday obstacles with patience, humility, and love.
Discovering Hope and Healing
Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Father Jacques Philippe discusses the reality that we live in an age defined by agitation and discord. Father Philippe invites readers to respond to the upsetting situations that come our way by embracing the Gospel. Using concrete examples from everyday life, readers discover how to overcome fear and grow in confidence in God’s loving care for us.
Interior Freedom by Father Jacques Philippe leads readers to discover that even in the most difficult circumstances, we possess a freedom that no one can take away, because it originates from God. Throughout this book, Father Philippe unfolds a simple but important theory: our interior freedom is in exact proportion to our growth in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
This Lent and Beyond
A spiritual book about suffering is the perfect companion to our upcoming Lenten journey, although these books can be read and contemplated at any time of the year. Spiritual books on suffering contribute to our understanding of the greatest suffering ever endured: the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They also help us more fully unite our own sufferings with those that Jesus and Mary endured on Mount Calvary. And the wisdom gained within the pages of these books aid us in easing the sufferings of others.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favorite books about suffering through the lens of faith?
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