Sacrificial Love, Sanctifying Grace: How to Find Joy in Suffering

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “friends are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”. However, have you ever replaced the word ‘friends’ with ‘suffering’?

All of us endure hardships and suffer in some way throughout this journey in life. Some may suffer more than others. Some may feel their burden is heavier than their neighbor’s yet it may not be as tough to someone who has been through something similar. Each of us are uniquely different and all our suffering is real.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:14

My friends and I have embarked on a spiritual journey this year like none other I have ever attempted. It is called Nineveh 90. We have grown individually on this quest, yet we have been able to share intimately our joys and sufferings as sisters in Christ, which has further solidified our bond as Christian women.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Perhaps you have withstood a season of sadness with a case of depression. Possibly you are one who has endured a lifetime of loneliness with the loss of a spouse, child, or other family member. Maybe you are the victim of abuse. Every one of us has encountered suffering for a reason even if we don’t acknowledge there is a greater purpose.

For now, let us focus on when we recognize that our suffering can be utilized as a prayerful offering for God’s greater glory. This is called redemptive suffering.

God's glory

What we can do when we suffer is have the faith that whatever our circumstance, Jesus is with us and carrying that cross, no matter how heavy it may be. There will be those the Holy Spirit will bring into our lives who will help us along our journey to discover Christ. We will encounter a Simon of Cyrene to help ease the heavy weight. He may be disguised as a parish priest, a friend, or a perfect stranger at just the moment we are about to fall. We will encounter Veronica, who will aid us in seeing more clearly from her loving care and charity. She may come in the form of a friend’s loving words of encouragement,  the gift of a massage at the local spa, or someone watching your kids for you while you get some alone time to rest.

We can gain wisdom through our sufferings if we learn about the saints. Many of them suffered greatly. During the midst of trials, it is wise to ask the saints for their intercession, particularly to those who specialize in the trial or emotions you may be experiencing. For example, St. Rita is patron saint of loneliness, marriage difficulties, parenthood, and abuse victims; St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of addictions; St. Dymphna is patron of those suffering mental afflictions, anxiety or nervous disorders. Search for the saint patron to your suffering. They will be there for you in your time of need and they will assist you in attaining heaven.

photo credit: Alexander Day Mother of God 2 via photopin (license)

Above all the saints, Mary wants to help. Our Lady of Sorrows is just one of her many titles. When we walk with Mary during our joys and sorrows, when we become aware that we can walk with her, we will find that our circumstance is not as difficult to bear since we are not alone in our struggles. We will begin to find joy even amidst trials and suffering. We will also, more importantly, become more intimate with Jesus Christ.

It is important as Catholics to realize that we are truly nothing without God. He never makes mistakes. He may be allowing suffering to take place so that we choose to turn to Him with love and mortify ourselves in order to grow in holiness. If you would like to learn more about this, I encourage you to take the time to listen to Fr. Ripperger on the Virtue of Mortification. Through our sacrifices and sufferings, out of love for Jesus Christ, we can obtain sanctifying grace from our Heavenly Father. We will also receive the supernatural comfort and joy that only our loving Father can bestow especially during difficult times.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:12-13

If you are struggling and need help, do not stay silent. Reach out to those close to you in your time of need. Talk to your parish priest and go to Confession. Turn to Christ who will strengthen you. Ask the saints for their intercession and for Mary’s mantle of protection.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.


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