One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” There’s not always an easy answer. Many responses ultimately lead to more questions. Why is there suffering? If God is real, why would he allow suffering? How do we deal with suffering?
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. There are endless sources of pain and misery in the world, and it is human nature to try to escape them by any means possible. However, by looking to the example of Jesus Christ embracing his cross, we are called to embrace suffering. A familiar axiom to help us better understand this would be “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Frequently, when one is experiencing adversity, there is a tendency to try to fix it. That may take the form of an unhealthy coping mechanism, complaining or attempting to make it go away. However, the Christian response is to acknowledge that holiness increases when we embrace suffering. Emulating Christ’s suffering is the best way to grow in holiness. We must decrease, so he can increase. We can see this prominently in parts of the world where Christians are persecuted. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.
Throughout history, in times of suffering and persecution, great trials have produced great Christians. If we want to be holy, we need to embrace suffering. One of my favorite prayers is the Litany of Humility; I would encourage you to Google it. It is a difficult prayer, but it helps those who pray it to grow in humility by encouraging them to put God and others ahead of their own will and desires. Suffering is humbling.
In sports, music or academics, practice, rehearsal and study are essential for improvement. Practice and training are not always the most enjoyable activities, but they are necessary for us to grow. The same is true of suffering — it isn’t enjoyable, but it’s needed for us to grow and become more Christlike. In a time when there is much adversity, let us recognize the opportunity we have to grow in holiness. Let us embrace the cross alongside Christ, so we might be raised up with him on the last day.
– Ordained a priest in 2015, the Rev. Tim Nadolski has served as pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, a parish with more than 1,600 families, since July 2020.
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