I don’t like reading sad books. I don’t like watching sad movies. I tend to avoid things that I know will make me cry. So it has been often true that when I see a book about suffering, I kind of look away and pretend that I don’t see it. It’s cowardly of me, really. We should all work on developing our own empathy and one of the ways we do that is to get out of our own little bubble and to really see the suffering in the world. In turn, this will help us with our own suffering.
So when I received a copy of When You Suffer by Jeff Cavins at the beginning of Lent, I knew I couldn’t slip it into my bookcase without reading it. I felt God was asking me to read this book right now. I grumbled and said okay because even grumpy obedience is better than disobedience.
First let me say, I really enjoyed this book! It was not a doom-and-gloom sort of book at all. I laughed and smiled often and afterwards felt like I could really be friends with Jeff Cavins. That’s how the book feels, like you’re sitting and having coffee with him while he talks about suffering and how we can get meaning out of it.
But the book is not just written in a storytelling format. There are some stories and I enjoyed them but perhaps most valuable to me are the practical ways that Jeff talks about suffering. He lists out 10 practical ways we can make our own suffering meaningful and transformative.
I walked away from the book feeling like I had a much better way of “offering up” my own suffering instead of what I had previously been doing which was to say, “Ouch, Jesus this hurts, um… I offer it up to you, um for sinners.” I knew there was something more to the whole process but I wasn’t sure exactly what or how to go about it. Now I have a much better idea of not only why we do have the power to offer up our suffering but how to do it.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
I’ll show you how all of us have an opportunity for our daily lives to be transformed, whether it is through intense suffering or a dull, nagging type of suffering. When life gets uncomfortable, unpredictable, when you feel weak and empty — that’s exactly when you have the an opportunity to become more like Christ.
God disciplines us for our own good, in order to make us holy. And while that discipline is often painful, in the end, the fruit it bears is peaceful and righteous.
Godly discipline should always leave a son or daughter with a sense of security rather than confusion. Sometimes discipline seems harsh, but from god’s perspective it is pure mercy.
Nothing [is]lacking in Christ’s sufferings, but so that we might know the love of God more deeply, Christ has made room in his suffering for us to participate in it.
We can read about suffering all we want. We can watch Catholic TV, listen to Catholic radio, and read Catholic books, but we still soon realize that suffering cannot be taught in the abstract. Suffering is raised to the level of a vocation: “Come follow me.”
Marguerite Duportal: “In the sacred commerce that God permits soul to carry on with Him, pain acquires value of the highest order, in fact becomes the noblest of values. Suffering becomes a power. Those who suffer, those who are afflicted are there really wealthy people of this world. They are rich, but frequently they do not know how to spend it.”
That means that when you are in union with Christ and you offer up your suffering in union with him, your suffering is redeemed. You are valuable — so valuable that Christ wanted to redeem even your suffering and make it meaningful in your life. Our suffering united to Christ trumps any less-than-idea day.
I feel like I learned a lot about marriage and parenting through this book as well. I have a better understanding of how I can turn the suffering of my children into lessons and into gifts for God. I have a lot more forgiveness for the suffering my husband goes through and I will give him this book now so he can learn how to offer up his own struggles.
I know we’re more than halfway through Lent but don’t let that be an excuse not to read this book. In fact, I think you could even buy it now and read it after Easter for the express purpose of getting the most out of the Passion. As you go through Holy Week and you experience the great sacrifice our Lord has made for you, decide right then to honor that sacrifice by learning how you can use your own suffering for His glory.
I encourage all Catholics to read this book because when we suffer without understanding how to unite that suffering to Jesus’s sacrifice, it’s like burying money under your mattress and hoping to take it with you later to Heaven… you can’t. Now is the time to redeem your suffering and it really is more powerful than you think!
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Copyright 2016 Sterling Jaquith