Never have we ever heard someone say, “I wish I could suffer more.” Yet, we all know people who have overcome great suffering with grace and peace. They are beautiful examples to us and how we should join our suffering to Christ’s suffering. Why All People Suffer: How a Loving God uses Suffering to Perfect Us by Dr. Paul Chaloux, explains that suffering is not a punishment from God, but a gift given to us to perfect us so that we look towards Christ rather than inside our own selves.
What suffering is exactly, is “the sense of loss people feel when they are deprived of goods such as health, friends, family, possessions, and ultimately, union with God” (Chaloux). Here are a few great tips to offer up those losses so that we can overcome suffering.
Suffering is a way to lead us away from hurt like a stick for a horse. If we continue to do the thing that is causing the suffering, then we will continue to suffer. God always encourages us to move towards joy and happiness, but he also respects our free will.
Just like the difficulty it takes to break a habit, sometimes suffering has to be harsh and persistent in order to be effective.
Suffering is a way to reorient us towards God, from vice to virtue. “Suffering is not evil but a tool that God gave us to detect evil, protects us from the harm it could do to us, and perfect us so that we can be like God and with God for eternity” (Chaloux).
Suffering gives us the opportunity to show and give love and compassion to others who are suffering. Focusing on the suffering of others, allows us to focus less on our own suffering, or share how we overcame our own suffering to help others to do the same.
Suffering is not a punishment for sin, nor do only ‘bad people’ suffer. Suffering is a part of life, it is how we handle suffering that shows us who we are. There are two different types of evil which cause suffering: physical evil and natural evil.
Physical evil is the struggle we have with nature (earthquakes, weather events, etc.) due to Original Sin and being thrown out of the Garden of Eden. This suffering provides us a way to “complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors” (CCC 307). Working with creation will help alleviate our suffering.
Natural evil includes disability, injury, illness and death—it does not mean that people are being punished by God for these natural evils but that God allows this evil to exist because he allowed some things to be corrupted as part of the natural design of the universe (Summa Theologiae, I:19:ix). While it is important to find comfort and healing when suffering from natural evil, it is just as important to heal the soul. Jesus would perform miraculous physical healing, but more importantly He also would offer forgiveness for the faith of those who were suffering from natural evil.
There is so much more to learn and know about suffering, how to best deal with it when we or others are suffering and how to turn towards God rather than into ourselves and become closer to the person God is longing for us to become. Dr. Paul Chaloux deeply covers the subject of suffering and and how we are to act towards all suffering. Why All People Suffer is a wonderful manual to guide us past our own suffering and understand that God doesn’t use suffering as punishment but rather to strengthen us and guide us towards our heavenly home.
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