Steadfastness in Suffering
1. We are all obliged to suffer in soul and body. Suffering begins at birth and ends at death. "The whole life of a Christian is a cross," (Sermon 31) says St. Augustine. For this reason we have to develop the virtue of patience. “Let patience have its perfect work,” says St. James, “that you may be perfect and entire.” (James 1:4) If we are to be perfect, we must accept sufferings and trials from the hands of God and offer them to Him in a spirit of harmony with His holy will. In this way all our actions become valuable, for they are acts of reparation and of love which will be rewarded in Heaven. Both our joys and our sorrows are sanctified if we offer them to God, Who arranges everything for our own good. The Saints longed to suffer because they loved God and knew that suffering is the only true way in which we can prove our love. Suffering is the best medicine for the soul, for when it is endured with patience it purifies us and prepares us for Heaven. "If God does not punish you for your sins," says St. Augustine, "it is a sign that you are no longer counted among His sons." (Lib. de Pass., c. 5.) “Whom the Lord loves, he chastises,” St. Paul writes, “and he scourges every son whom he receives.” (Heb. 12:6)
Suffering is in fact a gift from God. It reminds us that we have not been created for this world, but for Heaven, in preparation for which we must carry our cross with patience in the footsteps of Jesus. No matter what we do, we must suffer. Either we bear trials patiently and gain an increase of merit, or we rebel against them and gain no merit at all. When we suffer, let us think of the two thieves, both of whom were tortured in the same way. But the good thief accepted his torments with patience in reparation for his sins and was saved, while the bad thief rebelled against his sufferings and was most probably damned forever.
2. When we feel depressed, or when we are tempted to strike out angrily against human injustice and misunderstanding, there are two considerations which should help us to be patient. (1) The first is the reflection that everything comes to us from God or is at least permitted by Him. Why should we rebel against the will of God? Jesus was innocence itself, yet He willed to suffer for love of us. Are we unwilling to suffer for love of Him? (2) The second is the realisation that we are sinners who have offended God many times and deserve to be punished. It is necessary to accept patiently all the sufferings which God sends us in expiation of our sins. “We are receiving what our deeds deserved.” (Luke 23:41) Above all, we ought to resolve never to give way to anger in word or in deed when we are offended. On these occasions we should wait until we have calmed down and have asked God for peace of mind. Before we do anything we need time for reflection and prayer. If we act in this way we shall not have to be sorry afterwards. Patience can help us to achieve anything and will eventually help us to gain Heaven.
3. “Christ has suffered for you, leaving you an example that you may follow in his steps.” (I Peter 2:21)