Physical suffering can often be a pathway to a deeper holiness and friendship with God.
When faced with physical suffering, our natural reaction might be to ask God for a cure. While this may be in God’s divine plan, another option is to simply ask God for an increase in love and courage, offering the pain as a sacrifice to God.
Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk of the 17th century, advised a friend in one of his letters not to ask God for a cure.
I told you, in my last [letter], that [God] sometimes permits bodily diseases to cure the distempers of the soul. Have courage then, make a virtue of necessity [and] ask of God, not deliverance from your pains, but strength to bear resolutely, for the love of him, all that he should please, and as long as he shall please.
He further adds, “Love sweetens pains and when one loves God, one suffers for his sake with joy and courage … he is the Father of the afflicted, always ready to help us. He loves us infinitely more than we imagine. Love him then, and seek not consolation elsewhere.”
This spiritual point-of-view is not easy to bear, especially when we are in the midst of suffering. We want our suffering to go away and do all we can to make that happen. Yet, sometimes God may want to use that suffering to point out an area in our life where we need spiritual mending. This is a difficult medicine to swallow, but one that can pave the way for our ultimate happiness with God in heaven.
Many saints throughout history have found joy in suffering, offering up their pain and sorrow to God as a sacrifice of love. The more we love God, the more we can accept any trials that occur in our lives.
Whatever might happen in our lives, let us try to accept everything as coming from the hand of a merciful father, who wants to bring us closer to him in a loving embrace. Our response should be to love God in return, even when that love hurts.
“Offering it up”: Is that still a thing?