Grow Strong in Your Suffering
You were beautifully and wonderfully created for the suffering that you experience. It is a catalyst that will shape you into the person God designed you to be.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” A cliche line that speaks a volume of truth: suffering is an opportunity for growth. Not even those of us who abandon ourselves completely to God will be free of it, and to be honest, we shouldn’t want to be. My mom always told me growing up that when we suffer Jesus is kissing us. Imagine how close in proximity we must be to our Lord & savior if He is able to kiss us. That is something we should ardently desire, nevertheless, human tendency is to fear suffering. Why is that? We do not need to desire suffering by any means, but it is something we are guaranteed to experience in our lives. Thus, we must see how God calls us into a deeper relationship through it. Suffering allows us to understand our capabilities, our limits, our desires, and our strengths. Suffering allows us to grow into the person God has created us to be.
I used to think that suffering was a sign I was doing something wrong, that I had to strike up a deal with God for things to go better. I said countless prayers offering him rosaries, actions, and whatever else I could think of that would right whatever wrongs I had done. While my intent prayer and my faithful acts were not a lost cause, my approach to suffering as a bargain with God was not what He was looking for. I was leaning away from my problems, when I should have been leaning into them.
Suffering and weakness is not a punishment, nor is it any indication of a lack of faith. That’s an important idea to wrap your head and your heart around. We believe in an all-knowing, merciful God whose love for us knows no limits. God redeems our suffering by turning it into an opportunity where we can further develop our dependence and trust in Him. When we encounter a rough patch in our life, whether it be in relationships, at work, or in our own health, God is asking us to lean on Him rather than our own understanding. Our preference may be to plan out our days or create a timeline for our lives so that we “know” what happens when: but this is not God’s plan for us. It is God’s will that will be done in our lives, so we must allow Him to guide and strengthen us, turning to him in times of suffering. This is how we can become stronger in the face of weakness. This sentiment is communicated to us in the book of Proverbs, saying,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Easier said than done, but ultimately this is what we should strive to do. In the domain of our personal lives, we must completely trust that our faith is enough. We must trust that God is powerful enough to take whatever suffering and evil there is in our lives in our best interest. This, at its core, is an act of faith. There is no scientific, philosophical, or mathematical method in which we can prove that the best in our lives comes from the worst, but it is precisely these acts of faith that we are invited to participate in as set by the example of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead: the ultimate triumph of good over evil. And while at some times we may feel as though we have lost everything, the Lord will never leave us wanting for what is essential: Him. His presence. His love.
The saints are a great example of this. We have the lives of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Holocaust martyr, Saint Francis of Assisi, gifted the pain of the stigmata, and Saint Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake for her unrelenting faith, among many others, who all suffered greatly during their lives but were rewarded greatly by our Heavenly Father. All of these individuals had one big thing in common: they trusted in God’s plan. Evil is a mystery - we will never truly understand it. We will experience heartbreak, disease, embarrassment, financial burden, and more in the course of our lifetime, but it will never be to no avail. We can do what is humanly possible to avoid, eliminate, and relieve suffering in our lives, but we must ultimately come to peace with the realization that suffering will reveal the redemptive love and glory of our God to us. As it says in Romans chapter 4, we must “hope against all hope,” knowing that we will never truly understand the “why” behind God’s plan. This is for the best - for if we understood there would be no room to lean on God; to trust in Him - and what is a relationship without trust?
Thus, as we saw in Proverbs, we must submit ourselves to our God, for he will direct us and make our paths “straight.” We read in Isaiah, chapter 40, that the Lord will, “give strength to the weary,” and that those who hope in the Lord will, “soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” We are promised over and over again in scripture by our Father that we need not worry in the face of suffering. God will not and has never given you a cross too heavy for you to carry. We know from this scripture, where it reads,
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
You were beautifully and wonderfully created for the suffering that you experience. It is a catalyst that will shape you into the person God designed you to be. Thus, I encourage you to use it as an opportunity to draw closer to your Father. Allow Him to guide you; lean into your suffering as an act of faith, showing God that you trust in His providential will.