Trust in Him

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bearing Affliction

"I am exhausted with my groaning,
every night I drench my pillow with tears;
I soak my bed with weeping.
My eye wastes away with grief;
I have grown old, surrounded by my foes."
(Psalm 6)

We all have our trials to bear, as a result of the first sin on earth, we are vulnerable to all kinds of evil. Some of us experience more trials and suffering than others... but nobody escapes it completely. But God is goodness itself, and He can bring evils to good. Which is why we cry "Oh happy fault! Which has won for us so great a Savior!" Even in our affliction we are drawn closer to our heavenly Father in love.

Shortly put, there are two ways which we can bear affliction. The first is virtuously, and it is not only honorable, but also brings us greater rewards for our pains. To bear trials virtuously, one must have great faith in God and seek to please Him through patient perseverance, trusting in God's promise to save him. One who bears affliction in virtue is a person of great Charity: a person who forgets himself in his love of God and neighbor, forgiving all his enemies. He is also prayerful, for he looks to God for strength, begging the Most High to deliver him from those trials which he is not strong enough to bear. He takes all suffering in stride, calmly accepting all that comes. A virtuous person not only bears affliction, but he uses it to bring himself closer to the Supreme Good. He smiles, prays, and loves even when he is most destitute, and trusts in God even unto death.

The second way one bears affliction is the way that most people do. Rather than having extreme faith and working towards the greatest virtue, we simply live through our difficulties. We cry and bemoan our anguish while alone and with others. We beg God to make it stop, and wonder when it will end, waiting, not so patiently, for our deliverance. We try to bring ourselves out of our troubles, and generally have a sense of anxiousness, fear, or depression about us as we encounter things we cannot change. We are patient and persevering because we have to be in order to live, unintentionally seeing bankruptcy, suffering, and death as ends to be avoided at all costs. In our minds, we are running from the shadows of our greatest fears, or mentally crying our "I can't take it anymore!" Thus, this method of bearing affliction is much more discomforting mentally, spiritually, and even bodily than the virtuous method... but when our troubles finally pass, we generally feel a sense of growth, growth we had not realized during our sufferings.

What is this growth that comes from suffering? Temporally we mature and gain experience and perseverance. Unless we have lost the fight and have been driven back into the terrain of demons, we also grow in goodness and mental strength. Spiritually, we gain much more. When Jesus Christ made the Supreme Sacrifice, He gave us the opportunity to share in the merits of this sacrifice. When we suffer (if we suffer well), we are directly linked to Christ in His Sufferings and become heirs to the Fatherly pleasure with which God looked upon His Son's sufferings. We also become closer to God in love. For what person could not love more when his loved one is in pain or danger? God is no exception! When we share in Christ's sufferings we have a sense of empathy between us, a love that passes deeper with understanding.

In our pains, we are strengthened by the remembrance of saints who have suffered. Indeed, there are many we can turn to in our troubles! St. Paul suffered fatigue from long missionary journeys, sorrows from straying sheep, pain from stoning and scourging, long imprisonment, and finally martyrdom. St. Therese suffered spiritual trials of scrupulousness, longing, fear, sadness, and great darkness of soul. St. Francis suffered grave illness in the flower of his youth. St. Margaret Mary suffered paralysis and family struggles.
St. Thomas more was a victim of politics, struggling to keep his beautiful family from harm, he was beheaded because his opinions differed from the king's in favor of his Catholic faith.

St. Damien spent many years ministering to a dirty leper colony before dying of leprosy himself. St. Isaac Jogues was brutally martyred by the Indians he loved so much. The first American Nun, Lydia Longely, lost her family in a brutal indian raid, and was taken into slavery. St. Collette had to leave the shelter of her anchorage to save the hurting Franciscan Order, suffering from life on the waves of a world in turmoil. St. Catherine of Siena suffered from great penances in reparation for the sins of the world. St. Augustine suffered from grave sin. St. Maria Goretti was stabbed 14 times and lay in anguish before dying hours later. St. John Fisher, tired after many long years of service to his people (he was a bishop), was martyred as an old man. These good people and many others suffered great tribulation... and found God's goodness and love as their reward. We can take their lives as our example, and use them to ignite our hope when we suffer.

If you are suffering afflictions, fear, or spiritual troubles... have faith and hope, for many others before you suffered and were saved by Christ. Be glad that you can suffer, for greater rewards await you than you could ever have dreamed. Offer your sufferings to God, pray to Him and ask Him for help, and He will help you. He will make you strong and guard you. Remember that your angel is near, taking care of you, and thank him, asking him each night to guard you as you sleep. Earth lasts such a short time, and all things pass away, but Heaven is forever, and God's eyes can see that our joys will far outweigh our sufferings.

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