I keep reading about saints who sought out suffering - how can we change ourselves from avoiding suffering to “loving” it? I keep reading there is no way to Jesus except through the cross so how can we come to “love” to pick it up? Fight our natural desire to seek our own comfort, I guess, but have you had this change in you? Did you hate the suffering in your life and then come to “love” it? Or accept it for Jesus?
The ‘love’ of suffering comes from understanding. The thing about suffering though is that it is an option whilst pain is not optional. We all go through pain, it is merely our thoughts that make it suffering. The best way to deal with pain is in knowing that it is temporary like our lives on Earth.
We’re not to ‘love’ suffering in a masochistic sense (since masochism is a mental disorder) - we’re to accept it as a sometimes necessary means to an end.
Even Jesus prayed that His cup of suffering be taken away if possible - in other words if the good it would achieve could be attained some other way.
I doubt He would describe His attitude towards suffering as one of ‘loving’ it, rather as enduring it patiently for the sake of God who desires us to be purified and sanctified, and to purify and sanctify others, by the steadfast bearing of those sufferings He sends us.
Taking tiny steps is one good way to accomplish something bigger. Perhaps you could start by thanking God for allowing you to share in the Cross when something causes you to suffer, either physically or psychologically. Stub your toe? Thank you, God! Someone flips you the bird in traffic? Thank you, God. Nobody thanks you when you’ve done something difficult for them? Thank you, God.
First, my stock answer to any question like this – PRAY. Take the question to God. Ask him to teach you how you should view suffering.
So, that’s what I did. Here’s the answer that came back.
If I look back on suffering in my life, I can always see the hand of God, both of comfort through the suffering in unexpected ways, and in some type of “lesson learned” at the end. Those are typically about myself – truly understanding who I am and how I tick – and some type of deepening in my relationship with God. In most cases, the specific deepening is the degree to which I’m willing to trust Him.
I’ve had that happen enough times that I have become confident that there is almost always (or perhaps always) a spiritual lesson to be learned through suffering. That tells me two things:
There is a purpose
The result is always me coming closer to God.
So now in times of trouble, I understand that this is going on. And I am humbled, because the creator of heaven and earth is investing time specifically in me. He’s building me into what he wants me to be, so that I may do what he wants me to do.
I would also suggest… that to learn to love suffering, is simply to join the circumstances of our daily lives (and all the little things we suffer) to the Passion of Our Lord.
Ways we can do this? Well… the simple approach seems best. “Offer it up”! If you have a headache one day, join it to Our Lord’s Crown of Thorns. If you’re tired… join it to Our Lord’s fatigue, as He walked the Sorrowful Way of the Cross. If you’re frightened or worried about something, join it to His Agony in the Garden. Do you feel alone? Join it to His abandonment. Has someone you love, hurt you? Join it to His betrayal.
Just about anything we suffer, in our daily lives… can be found in the Sacred Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. During times of difficulty (which we all have, in our lives) focus your love on Him; perhaps, in this way… we can learn to love our own suffering.
I hope this helps. God bless.