“Humanity is the way to divinity. Suffering is the fastest way to humanity” ~Fr. Michael Sullivan.
God has recently given me the grace to glimpse into suffering. And the first question that comes to mind is why? Why would a God so good, a God who is love allow us to suffer? Allow bad things to happen to good people?
First we look at the way God chose to save us. He chose to save us through suffering; through the worst, most gruesome, terrifying, painful death imaginable. That is how the God of the universe chose to save us. And I think that the more I experience suffering, the more I agree with the quote above. The times in my life I feel the most human are when I am in the midst of suffering, but these are also the times that, when I allow myself, I feel closest to God.
When we suffer we have a choice: we can believe in the lies that we are not good enough, that God no longer loves us, that it’s our fault, that we can’t change, that the world hates us, or we can believe the truth that God loves us and uses the suffering we experience as a means of salvation.
A movie that comes to mind when thinking of suffering is Unbroken. If you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend it, but in the movie, we watch as a young trouble maker turns into an Olympic runner, who later in life is captured as a POW during WWII. Throughout this movie the main man, Louie Zamperini, is subjected to endless suffering. But through it all he kept fighting. He remembered that there was something greater, that he had a family to get home to, that there were still other men with him who he had to fight for.
Suffering is something that makes me so thankful that I am a Catholic, because as Catholics we believe that we are united in the Mystical Body of Christ, so when one of us suffers, there are always people there for love, prayers and support. One of my favorite parts of the movie Unbroken was that when Louie was trying to survive rafting in the ocean, he kept imagining his mother’s gnocchi. Mary had to suffer one of the most gruesome things in the world, watching her son die. So through suffering if we run to our Mother for comfort, just like Louie did, she will help us.
The other day I was watching one of those sappy love movies where the two kids fell in love and inevitably one of them ends up getting sick and eventually dyeing and it’s really sad and you cry for like five minutes but you have no idea why. Well I think this very human reaction tells us something intrinsically beautiful about the way God works. You see our relationship with God should be the most epic love story in the world. That’s what the Bible is, an epic love story of how God fought for us, never gave up on us because He loves us that much. How God made covenant after covenant until He couldn’t stand being apart from us any more so He made the ultimate sacrifice and sent His son, in the flesh, to die for us.
Suffering shows us that we really cared, that we loved fully; we gave until it hurt and did not stop there. Suffering means that we know there is something greater than ourselves that is worth fighting for. And although it is by no means fun, suffering is how we grow, it is how our hearts grow.
Like one of my favorite saints, St. Maximillian Kolbe said, “Without sacrifice, there is no love”. Saints are not people that did not suffer, but when they were faced with suffering, they see a path to approach God.