SUFFERING AND NOBILITY PT. IV

 

       It is unjustifiable and fatuous to be inordinately occupied with our pain or sufferings for the ungodly, or unpurified soul can never suffer enough to be fully cleansed of imperfections; to be free from sin, guilt and other defilement (when the soul which is still unholy cannot endure more, God's mercy and grace take possession of it). The unpurified soul can never suffer fittingly for all possible sufferings are not enough to make reparation for one single sin. Yet, "...as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too" (2 Cor. 1:5) and "Those who are like Me in the pain and contempt, they suffer will be like Me also in glory. And those who resemble Me less in pain and contempt will also bear less resemblance to Me in glory" (Jesus to Saint Faustina, op. cit., Divine Mercy..., p. 197). When human love becomes selfless; when the human heart is filled with self-giving love, there is no room in the human mind for anything else - not even rumination about pain. This is the climactic objective - this is human spiritual commission to be utterly submerged - to be entirely subordinated to the infinite power of self-forgetful love.

       "Wounds must heal wounds," for the wounded search for protection and healing with the wounded. Christ wished to be one of us, and became one of the wounded - in fact the most wounded of all. Sufferers must therefore always come to Him, recalling that the crucified Christ suffered infinitely more for His love is infinitely greater than human love is. Christ endured alienation from human beings and from God as no human being had ever experienced it before. Thielicke for this reason expressly concludes, "I am poor, but this my Brother is still poorer; I face the agony of death, but this my Brother tasted it to the dregs; I feel that I am forsaken of God, but this my Brother endured the bitterness of that separation to that last extremity in the darkness of Golgotha where he cried out more pitifully than I have ever needed to do even in my darkest hours" (Christ and the Meaning of Life, p. 62).

       The crown of thorns and the crown of glory, the experiences of humiliation and exhilaration therefore need to be recognized as absolutely necessary in shaping one's ultimate victory. Looking at the world with natural eyes always beings a significant dose of pain, yet nothing can damage, impair or substantively hurt those who are supernaturally transformed; those who are in the closest union with God for nothing can usurp over them greater authority, or influence than divine power does. Pain for those who are "divinized" is turned into joy since it is recognized for what it intrinsically is - becoming therefore an incentive for a sacrificial offering which consequentially brings about healing, restoration and fulfillment. Faithfully submitting to God's will is always associated with true wisdom, blessedness and contentment and thus whenever there is a genuine obedience to divine will, there can be no real sufferings. Writing to the Romans, the Apostle Paul explains: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (5:3-5). Sufferings are changed into authentic joy because of the anticipation that realization of God's plan ineluctably results in sanctification, or whenever the salvific meaning of sufferings is discovered, and  thus Saint Paul exclaimed: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (Col. 1:24), and "My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ's suffering, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter, 4:12-13). 

       There are no trials and spiritual struggles that have the power to ever shatter the assurance of God's perfect beneficence and love since God affirmed most powerfully His love with the blood of His Son. Those who are great in Christendom are always absolutely certain of this truth and hence can withstand the gravest sufferings to reach safely their destination. Those indeed who have the reason to live for "can bear with almost any how," and this is why they did not hesitate to walk into the jaws of lions. Holiness itself therefore "...is a living solution of the problem of suffering. For the saint, suffering continues to be suffering, but it ceases to be an obstacle to his mission, or to his happiness, both of which are found positively and concretely in the will of God. The will of God is found by the saint less in manifestation of the divine good-pleasure than in God Himself" (A Thomas Merton Reader, p. 289). For anyone who remains faithful to God is unequivocally certain that, "...his father's home was open to him, that the waiting lights were burning in its windows, and that there would come to meet him someone who loved him and would recognize him in all his rags as his own flesh and blood" (Thielicke, Waiting Father, p. 186). Our unwavering earnestness in searching for our true home, is virtual with finding that home, and therefore truly finding ourselves. Having such earnestness in other words, means having humbleness, and having the love for God and all, which conscious and unreserved suffering most eloquently confirms, for such triumph in sufferings brings about complete vindication, becoming consequentially the ultimate triumph of love.

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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