Christ Can Make All Things New, Even Our Sufferings
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19
My freshman year of college, my professor assigned us a paper with the prompt of explaining the purpose of suffering. In my paper, I attempted to explain the redemptive purpose of suffering and answer the question: “What part does suffering play in the Christian idea of life well-lived?”. It was an excellent challenge for my young mind to wrestle with these ideas of suffering entangled with an abundant Christian life. However, at that point in my life, I had not gone through any serious suffering yet. Eight years later, after having suffered a little and witnessed others’ suffering, I have gained more understanding of why we need suffering to become saints. In this post, we will touch the surface on why suffering is necessary for perfection in the Christian life and how we can find peace in suffering.
Why do we have to suffer? Christ suffered for us and invites us into His suffering.
Through suffering, we become transformed into His likeness and invite others into the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Christ is the ultimate model for Christians to know how to love and live fully and how to enter into communion with the Father. He suffered and died to gain us eternal life, and our commitment is to suffer and die with Him by way of the Cross.
“The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross”
As we die to the things that tear us away from the Father and receive the life given to us by the Son, we gradually become more and more like Christ. It is a painful and slow process but one that is also full of joy along the way.
Our suffering is also an opportunity to show hope to the world. As Christ’s suffering revealed the Father’s redemptive plan to the whole world, our own suffering can also show the Father’s love to the world. Christ completely surrendered to the Father’s plan of redemption for the world. Because of this, we are able to know the Father.
“The sacrifice of Jesus ‘for the sins of the whole world’ expresses his loving communion with the Father”.
Likewise, our suffering can be a window for others to see into God’s redemption for their lives. Our sacrifice shows our trust in God that He will “make all things new.”
My conversion to Catholicism has been a joyful and painful journey at the same time. The tension that has formed between my family and me has broken my heart, but because of God’s promise to “make all things new”, I know that my suffering is not futile. I have actually felt closer to Christ because I have been able to enter into His suffering for the unity of the Church. For the first time, I understand His pain from the separation within His Church and His great desire to see it united again someday. Anytime I feel lonely, I know that Christ suffers with me and gives me hope.
How does suffering change us? We learn to be patient in our hope.
Suffering gives us the opportunity to work on the virtues of hope and patience. God promises us that one day, all will be well. The Latin root for patience, patior, actually means “to suffer”. It is waiting for God to make all things new.
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
So what are we hoping for? We are hoping to know God more fully and to see His face. Although our physical bodies are dying, we know that we will receive new bodies someday that will fit our perfected souls.
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God...because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
(Romans 8: 19, 21)
How do we find peace in suffering?
Often, the worst suffering is internal, when we despair and our souls are restless. It is in these moments that we need to recognize that God is doing a good work in our souls and is making “all things new”.
“I am weary. I am worn thin. I can barely breathe. Where is the Holy Spirit during these time? He rests in me, quiet and unassuming.”
(Jeannie Ewing, A Time to Laugh, A Time to Weep)
God’s peace is quiet peace that comes not in the strong winds, the earthquake or the fire, but in a gentle whisper in our souls, saying, “Do not worry, my child. For ‘behold, I am making all things new’”. This peace comes through time spent with God in prayer and in giving ourselves in love to our neighbor.
Blessed Chiara Badano
Blessed Chiara Badano was a woman who exemplified pure joy in her suffering. She was a young Italian girl with a compassionate heart and desire to suffer for Christ. As a child, she was always giving her toys away to the poor and caring for those on the margins. She loved to dance and play sports and had many friends. However, at the age of 17, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and became paralyzed. Even then, her compassion and joy did not cease. In fact, they increased all the more.
In her suffering, she said she felt closer to Jesus. She found a new joy in her suffering and found that her “soul was singing” in the midst of the pain. One of her doctors remarked that through her smile and her eyes full of light, Chiara showed the world that “death doesn’t exist; only life exists.”
Even on her bed, she wrote letters of encouragement to her community and gave all her money to a missionary friend going to Africa. As physical life was being sucked out of her, Chiara allowed Christ’s life to pour out into others through her. At the end of her life, she said,
“I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”
She died in 1990 and was quickly nominated for the process of canonization. Blessed Chiara Badano was a woman who understood the true sense of redemptive suffering. She trusted that the Lord had a better plan than she did so she surrendered to His good will.
“If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.”
Challenge: How can we imitate Christ and trust our heavenly Father in His redemptive plan for us?
This post was inspired by Jeannie Ewing’s new book, A Time to Laugh and A Time to Weep, which offers reflections on Servant of God Cora Evans’ selected writings, Refugee from Heaven. To pre-order your copy click here.