Everyone suffers, but not everyone suffers the same. Some people who are in the midst of physical or mental suffering don’t want to bear their pain alone. So they torment the others around them with unreasonable demands, expectations and anger. As if any poor soul trapped within their orbit must suffer a similar misery. Others bear diseases, setbacks and fractured relationships in a state of depression, silent fear and quiet resignation. And you can’t blame them. Their loved ones worry about how they isolate themselves from the people and institutions that can help them. But there is a better way to carry our crosses. We can offer them up.
Paul, the Apostle, addressed this issue in Chapter 1, verse 24 of the Book of Colossians:
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. . .”
While none of us can add one iota of merit to Christ’s suffering, we are given the privilege of participating in it by aligning our own sufferings with those of our Savior. We can offer up our own travails – perhaps a divorce or a sick child or the paralyzing weight of depression – for others. God redeems our suffering.
Consider what the Catechism has to say on the subject:
“By His passion and death on the Cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to Him and unite us with His redemptive passion” (#1505).
When we unite our sufferings with Jesus, we are offering them up to Him as our gift. Our souls begin to heal. Our focus changes. We begin to have a sense of purpose – even within our own pain.