The Lord is so good to me, he let me get sick.
Not just a little sick, but knock me on my butt, I can’t remember what day it is, sick. Okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT bad, but I’m a man, and that means when I get sick I’m like a little baby. I’m the husband calling my wife in a whiny, childish voice, “Honey, would you get me my water?” Never-mind that it’s three feet away. Really, I’m useless when I’m sick.
So I lay on my couch watching reruns of Fulton Sheen and sailing videos for two days. In a small miracle though, the Lord chose to let me get sick for my first three day weekend in months. I would have worked right through it, but in His wisdom, he made me rest. I didn’t like it, but we accept good things from God, shouldn’t we accept evil?
More to my point though, we have seemed to have lost the opportunity sickness holds. The second I started getting sick, I was mad and thought, “I don’t have time for this!” It is so easy to forget in the moment that all things are ordered by the Lord, it is easy to allow myself to get frustrated by the daily mess and forget that even the smallest of things are for the salvation of mankind. Luckily, He was kind enough to remind me of this before I lost this golden opportunity, the opportunity to offer it up.
We have lost the sense of offering up our sufferings. The apostle tells us we fill up in our flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, but how often do we actually take this gift to heart for the salvation of souls? How often do we let the gift of suffering pass us by with nothing but sadness and frustration, forgetting the redemptive quality our suffering has? Christ Himself suffered, and we are blessed to join Him in this when God grants us the opportunity. Many souls can be saved if we could simply be a bit more generous, and less filled with complaints.
Some of us are called to more suffering than others, I know. Some are called to deal with lifelong disabilities, or terminal illnesses. Some of us have simpler pains, that knee that never fully healed, those really bad allergies that knock us down every season. Often our frustration runs so high that we don’t know if we can deal with it anymore. I remember one person I was talking to who was suffering from cancer who asked me, “Why won’t God just let me die?” Suffering is real, very real, one of the most real things we experience in this life.
It is also an opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong. I know it’s not fun. I know you would rather be in Disneyland, or even something simpler, like sitting on your couch without pain. I am just saying that it is not meaningless, that you can choose to turn your suffering into one of the most powerful forms of prayer that there is. In our sufferings we are given the chance, the opportunity, the blessing, of being able to offer our pain and hurt to the Lord to ease the suffering of others, to free souls from Purgatory, and to call the world to conversion. United to Christ, our suffering becomes powerfully redemptive, a powerful spiritual light that can help to cleanse the world of darkness.
Don’t believe me? Look to the Saints! Over and over again you will see the suffering they underwent, the torture and death of the martyrs, darkness and emptiness of the soul, incredible illness (I think of my beloved Therese!), social dishonor, extreme penances, the stigmata, there is no end to what they endured. I cannot think of a Saint that did not endure real suffering, not one.
It is necessary that a Saint do two things, usually in this order:
- Pick up their Cross.
- Follow Jesus.
How silly that we don’t take to opportunity when our Lord sets it in our hands. What greater love can we have than to follow in our Lord’s own footsteps?
Alright, so just in case you don’t know how this works, let me share with you how to offer it up. It’s not complicated, but perhaps a short primer would be helpful. Next time you are suffering, do the following.
- Recognize that God is allowing you to suffer for the good of your soul. He loves you, and would never let you suffer without a much better good coming from it.
- Get a crucifix, and remember what our Lord endured. Mentally join your suffering to His. You could pray something like, “Lord, you suffered and died for me even though I am a sinner. I unite my suffering to your Cross, that I may share in some small way, your own Passion.”
- Offer an intention for your suffering. I usually either offer my suffering for the souls in Purgatory, or just ask the Blessed Mother distribute any small merits my suffering has to those most in need of them.
- Put on a brave face. Take the suffering God has given you as bravely as you are able, and when it gets rough, remember your intention. It won’t be easy, but that’s okay.
- When it gets real tough, remember #1.
Easy to say, but hard to do. Don’t worry though, I believe in you, because I know #1 to be true.
And drink lots of water. Water is good for you.