These lines from an anonymous Confederate casualty of the Battle for Gettysburg express the essence of Godly suffering: "I asked God for strength, that I might achieve. I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey... I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life. I was given life, that I might enjoy all things... I got nothing that I asked for but got everything I had hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all people, most richly blessed."
Some thoughts on suffering:
- In orthodox Christianity, suffering has its ultimate origins in the human will, the abuse of which, through the sin of Adam, caused the rift between God and man that only Christ can reconcile. Suffering's proximate causes are the effects of Natural Law stemming from our own actions or the actions of others (even going back through the generations), the work of demons, and God's pulling back His mantle of protection, sometimes for obvious reasons, such as punishment, sometimes for inscrutable reasons. In any case, suffering is never positively willed by God, but is allowed for our benefit.....
- In order to perceive the true answer to the "why" of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. . . Love is also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. This answer has been given by God to man in the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and others, owe their profound conversion... It may be that some suffering is permitted by God as a way of waking someone from a dream of self-sufficiency or illusory happiness. Life-saving surgery is painful.
- Jesus offered Himself to suffer for our sins and make possible our Salvations... We, too, can "offer up" our sufferings for others. When given to God along with the Perfect Oblation (Christ) offered to the Father at the Mass, our offerings and sufferings are sanctified and put to use...
- Suffering is part of human existence from birth until death, and every human person suffers in a variety of ways: physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. The Bible provides many examples: one’s own death, the danger of death, the deaths of children or friends, sterility, homesickness, persecution, mockery, scorn, loneliness, abandonment, remorse, watching the wicked prosper while the just suffer, the unfaithfulness of spouse and friends, and the misfortunes of one’s homeland.
- We could say that suffering . . . is present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one’s "I" on behalf of other people, especially those who suffer. Suffering is redemptive in part because it reveals to man that he is not God, rendering him more receptive to the divine... Only when we are weak do many of us rely on God and explicitly repudiate our own divine ambitions.
- For some Christians, suffering is always the result of personal sin ("You're sick? You shouldn't have been playing cards...") While it is true that suffering has a meaning as punishment, when it is connected with a fault, it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment.
- Our imitation of Him and our gifts to Him, though they are nothing without His Sacrifice, build up the Body of Christ if they are joined to His sufferings. We must carry our Crosses through suffering, for the eternal hope of ourselves and others.