The Value of Suffering

It is an unpopular opinion in our culture today to love suffering. But for the Christian, we find value and beauty in suffering. For us, suffering is a means of salvation. Learning to embrace the suffering that comes our way can be the work of a lifetime. Teaching children the value of suffering is something that can begin at a young age. 

Suffering is a real Christian mystery. Why would something that feels harmful and painful be good? Why can’t life just be easier and with fewer complications? 

Jesus shows us that, “In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and Death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (CCC 609). His purpose for coming was to do the will of the Father which involved freely giving himself to saving mankind through His death on a cross. 

If Jesus suffered for us and saved us then why do we need to suffer as well? As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”. But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men. He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him],” for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps. In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering” (CCC 618). 

The cross brings us to discover Jesus immediately. Whatever suffering we go through, if offered in communion with God, is no longer an evil that oppresses us, but a means for union with God. “The world will probably not understand this advice, but do not be disturbed. It is enough that Jesus, Mary, and the saints know what is going on. Live in union with them, then, and let your blood flow for the benefit of all mankind…just as He did” (C. Lubich, Meditations, Madrid 1989). 

The Saints on Suffering: 

When considering the great value and beauty of suffering, the Saints can serve as our guide! Many of them suffered greatly for love of Christ, and many had stunningly beautiful things to say about this mystery of the Christian life. Here are just a few things the saints have to say about suffering:

  • “Christ is God and man, and if we would share His life, we must share both in the divine and the human life. The human nature which He took enabled Him to suffer and die. The divine nature which He possessed from eternity gave His suffering infinite value and redemptive power. Christ’s suffering and death are continued in His mystical body.” St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (20th century).
  • “Let it be our chief study to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ …. Jesus has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few who are willing to bear his cross.” St. Damien de Veuster (19th century)
  • As Jesus told Saint Faustina once; “There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood; the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy.” 
  • Padre Pio, Secrets of a Soul: “When Jesus wants me to understand that He loves me, He allows me to savor the wounds, the thorns, the agonies of His passion…When He wants to delight me, He fills my heart with that spirit which is all fire; He speaks to me of His delights”.