No matter who we are or what we encounter in this lifetime, we will encounter pain and suffering. But that doesn’t mean that we have terrible lives or lives devoid of meaning; it simply means that we are fallen humans with the opportunity to take part in Christ’s Passion. There is grace is suffering.
Though it is hard, suffering can make us better and closer to Our Lord; it is all in how we respond to it. Mother Angelica, in her wisdom, had much to say on suffering and burnout.
“We would like to ignore suffering, hide it, and pretend it is not there…”
Mother Angelica was well aware that people do not like to suffer. Why would we! Even Saint Paul wanted a way out of his sufferings. Mother Angelica cautions that Christ’s answer to Saint Paul, “My grace is enough for you. My power is at its best in weakness” isn’t what we wish to hear. But it’s still perfect advice when we’re facing burnout.
“Paul was suffering from within himself and from the agonies built into his missionary endeavors, none of which would God lift a finger to lessen,” Mother Angelica writes. “When Jesus told him His grace was sufficient, He meant not only that the grace of God would be with him as strength, but that grace itself was all Paul was to be concerned about. There was a purpose for all his trails and the purpose was to increase grace– holiness of life – a ‘participation in the Divine Nature'”.
“Physical pain united to the sufferings of Jesus is not only virtuous and grace -laden but prevents the Christian from a life of self-indulgence.”
In this little book, Mother Angelica talks about what she calls ‘Preventative Suffering’. It is those weaknesses, illnesses, and disappointments that allow the Christian to come out of himself and reorient his life towards God and grace, knowing that he is not perfect but that He is.
“God uses suffering to prevent us from making errors in judgment, committing sin, becoming worldly and proud,” she explains. “Preventative Suffering heals by keeping us away from danger and evil.”
“If our dry spell causes us pain, increases our thirst for God, makes us strive for virtue, and during prayer makes every other thought outside of God distasteful to us, then we can assume that the dryness we experience is of God.”
“This dryness is like a spiritual anesthetic,” Mother Angelica writes. “It numbs our soul while the Master Sculptor shapes it into His Image. We have no feeling of anything being accomplished. It is as if we were suspended between heaven and earth. We desire nothing of this world, but we are still not ready for the pure air on the mountain of God. We wait, not always patiently, while we roam along unknown paths, thinking at times we are lost, but always finding a new path to take, a new cave to hide in, a dim light to follow.”
“Only through the pain of dryness – where we decrease and He increases – can we begin to love God in the way He wishes us to love.”
Mother Angelica knew that love is not as connected to feelings and emotions as our human nature leads us to believe. We need the dryness to elevate our love.
“Through the purification of dryness of heart, the Holy Spirit becomes the greatest love in our souls. We begin to love God with our Will,” she writes. “We choose to love Him, to spend some time with Him, to prefer Him to ourselves. It is a hard lesson to learn, but God slowly guides our poor hearts towards Himself and frees us of all the attachments that keep us from giving ourselves to Him totally.”
“It is not being in the world that distracts us from God, but being of the world that separates us from God.”
“I pray not only for these, but for those also who, through their words will believe in Me. May they all be one, Father, may they be one in Us, as You are in Me and I am in You, so that the world may believe in You who sent Me,” Christ prayed in the Gospels.
Mother Angelica expounds on this. “Our union with God must be patterned after the way the Father and Son are One in each other. This is how we will become holy and prove Christ’s Divinity,” she writes. “A Christian not only believes; he becomes one with his beliefs. his life must be not only good; it must be sanctified.”
“Yes, Jesus needed them all because Love reaches out for companionship, not in order to receive but to give.”
Mother Angelica first talks about the specific reasons God needed each of the Apostles and Mary to carry out specific purposes, but then she reminds us that we each were created with a definite purpose in Christ, too, and that He needs us.
But why? Mother Angelica astutely know the answer.
“The very fact that we cannot directly render Him mercy or kindness, enables Him to accept what we do to our neighbor as done to Him. So it is that God needs each one of us to render Him praise and thanksgiving for all the benefits He has rendered to us. Since imitation is the best form of praise, the Father needs to see us compassionate and merciful as He is; the Son need to see us humble and gentle as He is; and the Holy Spirit needs to see us as loving as He is – all because They are Infinitely Good.”
Suffering and burnout can overwhelm us in this lifetime and could lead us to despair. But God intends it as a means of earthly spiritual purification so that we can grow ever closer to Him. For all of this wisdom and consolation on suffering and burnout, pick up a copy of Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout.