The Value of Suffering
Have you ever wondered why there is so much suffering in our world, and what purpose suffering serves? Many people throughout history have pondered this agonizing question but not many have come up with satisfactory answers that are really convincing or comforting. What about you – what do you think about suffering? Does it have any value or purpose for us human beings?
Here are twelve benefits of suffering as listed by John Clayton (Lecturer/Writer) on his website:Pain and suffering can:
(1) help us to learn important lessons in life;
(2) bring about creativity, resourcefulness and courage;
(3) help us to comfort others who are going through similar pain;
(4) help to shape our character;
(5) test us to show what we are made of;
(6) lead to repentance and salvation;
(7) help us to trust God if we can see His bigger plan;
(8) be an inspiration to others when borne well by us;
(9) have a Divine purpose in preparing us for glory;
(10) prevent us from becoming dangerously proud;
(11) in the life of one person provide the grace of conversion in the life of another person;
(12) help us to become more like Jesus.
I would like to focus on the last two benefits above for this article. How can our suffering help to save the souls of other human beings? Normally when someone does something wrong, they must atone for this wrong. For example, if someone steals or commits murder, they are sent to prison for a number of years to suffer and atone for their mistakes. By definition, a person experiences mercy when someone else is willing to suffer and make reparation for the sins of that person. This is exactly what Jesus’ innocent suffering did to satisfy the Divine justice of His Father by atoning for the sins of mankind.
How then does our suffering factor into this equation? The clue comes from the Scripture passage Colossians 1:24: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.” St. John Eudes explains this beautifully: “We must strive to follow and fulfill in ourselves the various stages of Christ’s plan as well as his mysteries, and frequently beg him to bring them to completion in us and in the whole Church. For the mysteries of Jesus are not yet completely perfected and fulfilled. They are complete, indeed, in the person of Jesus, but not in us, who are his members, nor in the Church, which is his mystical body. The Son of God wills to give us a share in his mysteries and somehow to extend them to us. He wills to continue them in us and in his universal Church. This is brought about first through the graces he has resolved to impart to us and then through the works he wishes to accomplish in us through these mysteries. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.”
So in summary, isn’t it an honor and a privilege to know that our sufferings, when united to those of Christ, can help to save souls, as depicted in the picture above of the scales of God’s justice? And by “saving souls”, I mean saving souls from experiencing the pains of Hell for all eternity, and helping them to experience the eternal joy and peace of Heaven! Imagine in Heaven how many souls will forever call you their spiritual father or mother because they made it to Heaven because of your sufferings! That’s what St. Paul told the Corinthians when he said that he was their spiritual father because of the suffering he endured to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to them. So in the words of St. James 2:1, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…”