Catholic View of Suffering


#1

I’m a Protestant seeker with a question. My husband and I were having a discussion last night about how it seems that there is this belief in our church and among our church friends that if you just have faith, tithe, etc., that God will provide and everything will be hunky-dory. We both have a problem with this belief that if you just do what the Bible says you’ll have no problems. I’m oversimplifying, of course, but that’s really the general attitude. We are sitting here with our only daughter (out of 3 pregnancies - the first ended in miscarriage, the second in stillbirth) who has a disability (cerebral palsy is a condition that she will always have - there is no cure) looking at our massive medical bills, knowing that we have done our best to be faithful to God, to be charitable, and to live below our means. It’s hard for me to believe that if I just tithe I’m going to get some mystery check to cover all of these expenses miraculously. I know this is a ramble, but…I thought maybe you should know where I’m coming from.

What exactly does the church teach about suffering and its purpose for us hear on earth? I know that to be human is to suffer - none are immune - but it seems that we’ve had more than our fair share in the 10 years we’ve been married (I’ve mentioned my daughter, but there are other things, as well). Just wondering if someone could clarify the church’s position for me.

Peace and joy,
Andi


#2

I can’t guide you in relation to the “teaching” of the Catholic Church, but I can give a bit of what I have picked up over my almost 3 years as a Catholic.

Suffering seems to be viewed as participation with Christ in His sacrifice. We don’t believe it to be related to PERSONAL sin, but I think there is some relationship between sin, as a world problem, and suffering. (So, the suffering we deal with isn’t necessarily due to our own actions, but due to the actions of others, esp. our parents, grandparents, etc – remember God says He will punish your descendents to the 7th generation for your sins and bless them to the 1000th generation?) Many Catholics talk about “offering up” suffering. I take this to mean allowing your suffering to be a form of sacrifice . . . not that any of us want to suffer, but once it’s there, offer it up as you would another form of penance. I think this idea of suffering with Christ is reflected well in the Lenten season . . . we offer up sacrifices, penance, to try to feel a small portion of the suffering that Christ felt.

I found a good list of Biblical references on suffering with Christ. Find it here: scripturecatholic.com/suffering.html

I think it’s important to not picture your suffering as the result of something you’ve done wrong. Certainly, it is good to remember that God always provides for us. It is also good to remember that He often does it in ways we didn’t/couldn’t imagine and/or don’t really like as well.

Some good friends of mine often talk about how Christians often find themselves suffering more the closer they get to God. Remember, your life here on earth is part of a larger spiritual battle. Satan wants your soul; he wants you to abandon God. So, the closer you get to God the more Satan tempts you and gives you trials. This couple recently had a beautiful baby girl; baby number 6 and their first girl. During prenatal testing, the doctors diagnosed Down’s Syndrome. All of us prayed hard for that little girl, and while she does have Down’s, she is also remarkably healthy. Her father says that God told Satan that he could touch the child, but could not damage her heart, eyes, etc.

I wish I could tell you the Church teachings, but I am quite new to all of this. Perhaps you can post in the moral theology or one of the other theological forums here. You might find more helpful anwsers.


#3

Your suffering is definitely not a punishment for your actions or the actions of anyone else. Jesus told us that when people asked him if the collapse of a tower was due to anyone’s sins. You can pray to realize that your suffering be joined to that of Christ, in reparation for the sin of the world. Sin is an arbitrary decision to not submit to the will of God. Our suffering can be a voluntary, arbitrary decision to balance (though not make up for) the damage that sin has caused in the world.

I will pray for your family. I also have a disabled child, as well as two in laws with dementia, and have found grace in the situation. I am more understanding of others, I am more forgiving, and I certainly pray more. A wise woman once told my friend that God allowed her to suffer because it motivated others to turn to God on her behalf, and for that it was worth it to her.

Go to avemariaradio.net and check out the archives of Al Kresta’s show. He has one on suffering that could help you. Also, look for the Popcek’s book, "Life shouldn’t look like this- dealing with disappointment. . .something something something :rolleyes: Both are great.

God does not promise us a life of pleasure, but He does promise us eternal joy in His presence. Where challenges are greater, so is the grace offered.


#4

[quote=nova147]Suffering seems to be viewed as participation with Christ in His sacrifice…Many Catholics talk about “offering up” suffering. I take this to mean allowing your suffering to be a form of sacrifice…Some good friends of mine often talk about how Christians often find themselves suffering more the closer they get to God. Remember, your life here on earth is part of a larger spiritual battle. Satan wants your soul; he wants you to abandon God. So, the closer you get to God the more Satan tempts you and gives you trials.
[/quote]

nova147 - Thank you! Your thoughts were exactly what I needed to hear today. Sometimes “looking on the bright side” gets a bit tiring, and as much as I appreciate the cheerful observation by others of my daughter’s achievements, what I really hear them saying is “I’m so glad it’s not my child.” Maybe that’s paranoid or negative thinking on my part.

I believe your friends are right, and what they say applies to me. I’ve been praying more and seeking God more, and it’s now that I am having so much difficulty. It seems so obvious now, but I was blind to it just a few hours ago.

[quote=Hawthorne]I also have a disabled child, as well as two in laws with dementia, and have found grace in the situation. I am more understanding of others, I am more forgiving, and I certainly pray more. A wise woman once told my friend that God allowed her to suffer because it motivated others to turn to God on her behalf, and for that it was worth it to her.

[/quote]

Hawthorne - Thank you for your prayers. I do know down in my heart of hearts that I am a better person for having experienced these trials. I believe that I appreciate my daughter more because of everything that we had to go through before she was given to us, and because of all the things we have gone through since then. I appreciate your words regarding suffering as reparation for sin in the world - it forces me to stop focusing on myself and to consider others.

Peace and joy,
Andi


#5

[quote=alsligh]What exactly does the church teach about suffering and its purpose for us hear on earth? I know that to be human is to suffer - none are immune - but it seems that we’ve had more than our fair share in the 10 years we’ve been married (I’ve mentioned my daughter, but there are other things, as well). Just wondering if someone could clarify the church’s position for me.
[/quote]

Andi,

Have you ever read the book of Job?


#6

Andi:

Read your life story. Thank you for sharing. You have gone through a lot.

Christ said if you wish to follow me pick up your cross and follow me. To us Catholics, suffering is salvific when offered up to and for Christ in love (that is partly why we do not believe in Euthanasia.). The real challenge is to suffer with joy. Then we know that our joy is from above not from the mamby-pamby gospel of wealth ideas.

St. Josemaria said that our sufferings are our wealth that we bring to the altar for Christ’s material for our sanctity.

God bless you and family with peace.

in XT.


#7

Dear sister in Christ,

Suffering is an integral part of the Christian faith journey. It is through each trial and sorrow that we have the opportunity to experience grace.
I am a new Catholic and am not prepared to expound on the teachings of the Church re: suffering; however, I can share with you that realizing MY crosses that I’ve shouldered and those I bear today are areas of my walk that I embrace. Here is a beautiful poem…maybe you’ve seen it. It’s in the Valley I Grow
You have been gifted with a child who will have some different challenges than others…but remember, the body is only a brief vessel upon this Earth.
In any given situation, blessings abound…we have but to seek them.
Praying you experience grace today.
Renee


#8

[quote=exoflare]Andi,

Have you ever read the book of Job?
[/quote]

Yes. Many times. Pretty much at every difficult turn in my adult life.


#9

ST. Faustina of Divine Mercy once said that if angels were capable of envying, they would envy us humans for two things; one of which has nothing to do with your question (that being the Eucharist) and the other for suffering. Good can always come out of suffering, and usually it leads us closer to God. If you are praying more because of problems and suffering, than its already doing its job.


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