Why and how is suffering redemptive?


Why would God allow our suffering to be something redemptive? Why wouldn’t our joys be as much as or more redemptive than our suffering? How can it be redemptive? Is it because it is united to Christ’s suffering? How exactly does one unite their sufferings with Christ? Does the intention determine whether or not the suffering is united with Christ’s/redemptive?


Dear PDR,

Sacrifice is the measure of love. We know how much others care about us by how willing they are to put themselves out for us–and not by the good feelings they have about us. This is why the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate Revelation of God’s love for us that it is! Sacrifice is not easy. It’s painful and all things considered, we would prefer to avoid it if possible. But when sacrifice can benefit another, then we are challenged to choose between our comfort and the other person’s benefit.

For many of us our first recollections of being loved go back to our early childhood when we called to our parents in the middle of the night because we were ill or frightened and they got up from a warm bed to care for us. They didn’t feel joy at such times. They felt tired and sleepy. But our good was more important to them than their comfort. And yet had they reflected on the reality of their love for their children at such moments, they may well have felt true joy. Many martyrs knew great joy even as they were dying. Real joy consists in the awareness of being one with God and His will for us. Knowing that one is truly acting in love is a great joy. It is, after all, why we were created.

Whenever our actions are motivated as a response to God’s love for us, they are redemptive. Yes, our intention makes the difference. Two people can endure the same suffering. One can just suffer it and it remains just suffering. The other person can offer it in response to God’s love for him and it becomes redemptive.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O. P.

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