I have two related problems.
(1) It seems like many saints ask God to send various forms of suffering to them. From fasting to intense temptations to physical torment, it seems like Catholic theology and practice revolves around the notion that suffering is redemptive and therefore good.
However, I am confused, because it seems like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy focus on the relief of suffering for others**.
Basically, if suffering is redemptive and good for me**, why isn’t it good for you** too? If I can ask God to send various afflictions and miseries my** way, why is it bad for me to send them your** way? This seems like hypocrisy to me.
Consider and example. We see a starving, lonely, homeless person. This is a daily reality for anyone who lives in a city. My instinct is to help the person. To pray for them (that God would miraculously help them), or to give them some food or money, or to talk to them. It seems like Jesus teaches us to do this. BUT, let’s say that I** am that starving, homeless person. Wouldn’t Catholic teaching encourage me to “take up my cross” and bear my suffering figuring that it is a good thing? Wouldn’t I be a saint, if, in that condition, I begged God to increase my sufferings in order to be justly punished for my sins or decrease the amount of time in purgatory for others or myself?
So, if suffering is a good in this case, wouldn’t it actually be bad for me (if I was not the homeless person) to relieve the suffering of the homeless person? Shouldn’t I be happy that God has chosen to send her or him many sufferings in order to increase her merit in some sense?
It seems to me like our theology of suffering causes a breakdown in our ethics, unless we embrace a kind of hypocrisy. You may not think it is hypocrisy, but imagine if the quality of suffering was changed to joy. What would you think of a person who said, “joy is good for me to experience and even commendable for me to ask for more of, but if I observe joy in other people, it is my duty to extinguish it!”
Replace “joy” with “suffering” and you have (what I take) as the discrepancy here.
(2). Many saints ask for God to inflict suffering and pain upon them for the love of others. This is undeniable. For instance, a particular saint may ask God to send her or him painful ulcers so that some other person may avoid hell. My difficulty here is that it seems more logical to just beg God to send more grace upon the person in danger of hell. Why the ulcers? How do they contribute in any way? If, after-all, God is completely in charge and will distribute his grace as he wills, why would a saint’s ulcers have any meaning? Is our God one who thirsts for pain and suffering in order to be appeased? Not only that, but it seems like the saint is even more loving and generous than God in this case, since God, for whatever reason, didn’t send enough grace to save the person from the danger of hell in the first place. This can’t be right?! If the saint loves a person enough to want to (illogically) take on physical suffering for a sinner in danger of hell, why wouldn’t God? If you answer, indeed, he has, then why didn’t he send sufficient grace to save the person without desiring/waiting for the intense gastrointestinal suffering of a third party?
I’m not sure this belongs to the “spirituality” sub-forum, but questions like these make it next to impossible for me to pray. My image of God switches back and forth between bloodthirsty villain, or incomprehensible, paradoxical, distant, universal “king” so it is quite difficult for me to have a good prayer life.
Any help would be appreciated, thank you.