Redemptive or Creative Suffering

I found the secret of suffering in peace – I don’t say joy. To suffer in peace, it is enough to will all that Jesus wills.

St. Therese of Lisieux

This is a relief to hear St. Therese say this because suffering is a part of life. As someone once said to me, in every life, some rain will fall. My Hindu mother, in her very difficult life, became for me one who exemplified both joy and peace. Trapped in a marriage she could not leave, she planted a beautiful garden, sewed, embroidered, read widely in both languages, Tamil and English, cooked, cleaned a huge home, and offered up her suffering, praying for her husband, my father and encouraging her children to seek better lives, education and freedom. She lived sacrificially, having many dreams of travel and joy, achieving none , dying prematurely, giving even to the last minute of herself, and preparing me for what she alone knew was inevitable….

American Christians especially in the Protestants churches and ministries tend to eschew suffering, preferring instead to ‘take authority’ over it and ‘command it to go in Jesus name.’ This is something a close reading of the Bible will tell you we can do to demons and evil spirits. In fact the Bible tells us that every knee shall bow, every tongue confess the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, however, we suffer, through circumstances that are not our own fault. Eg. immigration, poverty, racism, persecution, family violence, illness, loneliness, unemployment, lay offs, the evils of war, loss of limb, the pursuit of a difficult but beautiful vision………

The Catholic idea of redemptive suffering becomes a spiritual tool. By offering it up to God, by developing a closer relationship with the One who suffered on the cross for us, we can walk on. We do not have to either put on a false front or to deny an injustice when it occurs.

I have found much relief in ‘pouring out my heart before God’. The sacraments are also mystical tools that help me in my spiritual life. Initially I just went to church and sat silently. Some days I wept. Then one day, I received Holy Communion, and the next and the next…God meets us at our own personal wells of despair. He offers what no minister of the faith or doctor of the church can offer. Jesus, the name above all names, gives of Himself, daily. Silently.

The American Christian world has many books, power point presentations (I have friends fond of send these out to my mailbox), and music of every genre. Ministries send literature out and teach of a God who will only intervene in your life if……you bring your full tithes and offerings..and of course they cite Malachi…verses in the Bible. This contradicts the foundational teaching of the Christian God who is unconditional love.

It is no wonder that American Christians are grazing, as my impossibly human Hindu father would have put it, in other pastures and drinking at another cistern as the Bible puts it. Some of what they are taught is in gross error.

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