Rejoicing in Suffering

Rejoicing in suffering has to be one of the most difficult things in today's world. Joy and suffering seem like oxymorons. Yesterday we celebrated Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent. That word "laetare" or "rejoice" does not seem like it fits with Lent either. Lent is a time of penance and fasting, and the Scripture passages throughout the Masses of this season are filled with mention of man's exile on earth. We can see by this Laetare Sunday, which occurs right in the middle of the Lent season, that the Church is telling us to look ahead. To look beyond the immediate pain and suffering and focus on its purpose.

To rejoice in suffering means to understand the purpose of suffering. It does not last forever and it is not an end in itself. If we understand suffering in relation to being united to Christ on the Cross, then we will willingly suffer everything God sends--Who only sends suffering so that our souls may be more intimately united with Him and bring a great many souls with us. This can only be accomplished by taking one day at a time--or rather one moment at a time as St. Therese said, "If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient. I look only at the present, forget the past, and take care not to think too much of the future."

When suffering seems to engulf our lives, we need only look at a crucifix to know that God understands everything we are going through. There is nothing we will suffer that Christ has not already suffered. He has taken every pain, every sorrow, every heartache with Him of each individual person to Calvary. If we unite those everyday sufferings with Christ's then they take on infinite value because God is infinite. It is the lack of acceptance of suffering that really makes us suffer. If we accept and embrace God's will, we will be content with whatever happens to us.

Let us renew our vigor during this second half of Lent by accepting and even rejoicing in our trials because we have been counted worthy to resemble our Savior on the Cross.