Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Redemptive Suffering

When I was in college, I was assigned to the read the book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner.  The book left me asking more questions than it gave me answers.  I believe it is part of human nature for all of us, at one time or another in this journey of life, to reflect on that very question.  Why do bad things happen?  I am giving this some thought today because my prayer list seems to be growing by the day with names of people who have requested prayer for themselves or their loved ones.  There are so many people who are hurting right now - physically, spiritually, emotionally.  How do any of us make sense of this?  I am grateful to have my faith to guide me, because without it I would find myself in a hopeless place.

A few years ago I took a Bible study which was led by Jeff Cavins - a Catholic author and speaker.  One evening he spoke about the topic of Redemptive Suffering.  This was a new concept for me; one I had never heard of.  And although I have done some reading on this topic, I am still challenged to fully understand it.  I am beginning to believe that it becomes more clear as one grows in wisdom of life and as one encounters suffering in his or her own life.

The idea of Redemptive Suffering is this:  One offers their suffering in union with the passion of Christ, for the redemption of the world.  Jeff Cavins explained it from the viewpoint of a parent.  When my child is sick, I sacrifice my own health in order to restore my child's health.  For example, I sacrifice sleep and sometimes nutrition, in order to help my child regain his health.  In doing this, I may get sick, but in order to restore wellness, I make this sacrifice out of selfless love.  And so when this concept is applied to suffering, I can offer my suffering, with the suffering of Christ, for the redemption of the whole world.  Although suffering is still difficult, it helps to know that one can find purpose in it.

I have encountered difficult situations in my life, but I don't believe that I have ever truly suffered.  I have watched loved ones battle cancer.  I have cried with loved ones over the loss of an unborn child.  I have witnessed neighbors losing their homes or who struggle to have enough to eat.  There is no simple explanation to any of this, but there are truths that I cling to.  We never walk alone.  Jesus is with us, holding our hand, and if we don't have the strength to hold His, He carries us.  There is purpose in suffering, even though we may not see it.
"It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up for all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church."
                                                              Colossians 1:24

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