Must we seek out suffering to please God?

Fairly often, Catholics will shove the suffering soul down the path of more pain, urging her to offer it up, be strong, seek holiness. They subtly chide her for even looking for rest and healing, as if holiness can’t be reached through simple obedience, but must be sought out through self-immolation — the more wretched, the better.

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One thought on “Must we seek out suffering to please God?”

  1. Thanks for the article. Obviously the relationship between accepting suffering and living the Way is difficult. There is the tension between our hedonistic culture that requires avoidance of short-term suffering, our psychological need for suffering to stabilize personal guilt and shame, and the heresies that deny the agape that God showers upon us. I think the difficulty in following Jesus through his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension is that the reality is that I don’t want to participate in the suffering part and so I am continually finding ways to avoid that path and its pain. Yes, God loves me and does not want me to suffer. Yes, Christ invites through this path that requires suffering and he is there, with me, the whole way. Encouraging each other to stay on this path is a treacherous undertaking yet a necessary one. Yes, avoid the sadistic urge yet help others to make progress on that path.

    ” We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
    For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
    All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.
    Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.” St. John of the Cross, A Spiritual Canticle

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