But if we are sons, then we are also heirs: certainly heirs of God, but also co-heirs with Christ, yet in such a way that, if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified with him. Romans 8:17
Many people mistakenly think they suffer because of God’s punishment or they suffer because it is the will of God. While suffering may sometimes be caused by our actions, often times, suffering happens without us knowing the reason.
When suffering happens through no fault of ours, the first response is to ask “why” it happened. I have been a good person but why is God punishing me. These questions rise up and there is nothing wrong with asking these questions.
In his Apostolic letter on Suffering (Salvifici Doloris), Pope St John Paul II said suffering is an experience of evil. Based on this, we can conclude that suffering is never the will of God. But we still need to ask if God is so powerful, can he not prevent suffering? The answer to this is “Yes, God is powerful, but he allows suffering for a purpose”. We only have to look at the suffering Jesus went through.
The suffering and death of Jesus was for the salvation of mankind. We are all saved by the blood of Christ. Christ knew the saving power of his death so he faced it in total obedience to the Father. At the last hour of his life on earth, Christ felt intense separation with the Father which is why he asked why his Father has abandoned him. Yet, in this moment of separation from the Father, he is most united with the Father because he was fulfilling the will of the Father. This intense union with the Father is revealed fully in his Resurrection.
Pope St John Paul II said the suffering and death of Christ is also the time when he is lifted up by the Father. The lifting up of Christ is fully revealed in his Resurrection. Similarly, our sufferings are not only moments of our defeat or abandonment. God uses those moments to unite us to himself so we can know him and in the process, know who we are with respect to him. We need to respond as Jesus did: in total obedience and surrender to the Father.
Many mistakenly think that we should meekly accept suffering. This requires discernment. If one is abused, one needs to discern how the Lord wants this to be handled. It is not God's will for any of his children to be abused. We are to surrender to God, and not to any human being. We do God’s will and not the will of any human being.
Our sufferings hide the glory God is preparing for us. But when we trust and surrender ourselves to the Lord, he will lead us through the suffering into glory, into new life. When we share in the sufferings of Christ, we are sure to share in his glory.
May we continue to unite ourselves to Christ in our sufferings so he will lead us to his glory.