Joy in Suffering

Friends in Christ,
In the Epistle from St. James today, he says,  ‘Consider it pure joy, when you encounter various trials.  So, joy in trials?!   If this is hard to understand, St. James says that we should ask God for the wisdom to understand it.     

St. Alphonsus says, there is nothing more pleasing to God than to see a person who patiently and serenely bears whatever crosses he is sent; this is how love is made.   ‘A soul who loves Jesus Christ desires to be treated the way Christ was treated, desires to be poor, despised, and humiliated.[i]     

Now this is one of the hardest aspects of the spiritual life.   But sometimes – sometimes we get a glimpse of it.  If something very hard happens to us, or a big cross, or illness, once in a while we think: ‘Now I am really being like Jesus, this is an opportunity!’ And we even feel happy about it.   This is to touch the best part of the Christian life;  the goal would be like the saints, to always welcome trials.     

A great example for us in accepting suffering in our life,  is St. Therese, the Little Flower.   The day after her 1st Communion, she says:   ‘I felt within my heart a great desire to suffer, and at the same time the assurance that Jesus reserved a great number of crosses for me. I felt myself flooded with consolations so great, that I look upon them as one of the greatest graces of my life.    

‘Suffering became an attraction, she says;   it had charms about it which ravished me.   I came to feel a real love for suffering and I also felt the desire of loving only God, of finding my joy only in him.[ii]     

When she was on her deathbed, suffering terribly from advanced tuberculosis, horrible in those days,  she is joking with the sisters,[iii]    Mother Agnes writes about it:   ‘Someone had given her a fan from our Convent in Saigon;   she used it to shoo away the flies. When it became very hot, she began fanning her holy pictures, and she fanned us too! She said:   ‘Look, I’m fanning the saints instead of myself  and I’m fanning you too, to do you some good,   because you too are saints!    

Near her death St. Therese would say:  ‘My life hasn’t been bitter, because I know how to turn bitterness into something joyful and sweet!     

As St. James says, ‘Count it pure joy when you encounter various trials.’      

[i] Navarre Bible, on James 1:2-4

[ii] Story of a Soul, p. 79

[iii] Last Conversations, p. 117-120

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