To avoid suffering is a pretty basic instinct in our nature. Who wants to suffer? Some people go to great lengths not to only escape suffering themselves but also any uncomfortable reminders that others are suffering.
After experiencing something traumatic, it might be necessary to pamper oneself a bit and not reawaken the trauma with untimely reminders or associations.
But it’s not a good idea to live that way.
After my own hospital ordeal this past week (with postpartum preeclampsia), my view of suffering has undergone a weird transformation. Going from attempts to get through this calmly and offer things up to a near phobia of certain things is a disappointing, but I suppose not really surprising, development.
It was reflecting on St. Teresa’s words, “All things pass,” however, that led to some unexpected results in me. Her words are an important reminder when one is suffering, because it’s so easy to feel like the suffering will go on and on.
My ordeal seemed long at the time, but really wasn’t. Many people suffer a lot longer here on earth. And many of the souls in Purgatory suffer for a very long time. Thinking of them made me want to make good use of any little lingering sufferings.
Then I started thinking of those whose suffering will never end. I have a very hard time getting my mind around the awful fact that hell lasts forever. I don’t understand it, but I accept it as true, based on both the Church’s teaching and Scripture.
I gained a new understanding of the children of Fatima. They were given a vision of hell, after which they (at such a young age too!—Jacinta was only six or seven) took on many challenging penances and became powerhouses of prayer for souls at risk of going to hell. Jacinta even underwent surgery without anesthesia, offering it up for the conversion of sinners, until she passed out.
And what did God do? Does He care? Remember the cross—that’s how much He wanted to save people from hell. That’s how much He invested in the cause.
For some mysterious reason, He wants us all to be a part of that cause. We are members of His Body, though, so it makes sense that we should participate in His work, in His saving action. “A disciple is not greater than his teacher nor a servant greater than his master,” He pointed out. So expect to get the same treatment. And elsewhere, “Take up your cross and follow me.” And as mentioned in an earlier blog post (Dec. 4, 2011), Paul says, “In my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). Christ left room for us to share in His work of salvation, and that includes suffering with Him.
The last week of Lent is here. We might feel weary; we might feel discouraged over failures to live up to our intended penances. But rather than giving up, we can renew our efforts, thinking of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Think too of why He did it. He underwent His Passion to save us from our sins and the eternal punishment for them. This week is an opportunity to show Him gratitude. To remember and reflect on what He did. And we can join in His Passion—that loving crusade for which He gave His life and shed His blood: we can pray, fast—do anything—to help souls be saved.