A Joyful Suffering

I always like to look to the scriptures for inspiration in my writing, but do you ever read the Bible and just get depressed? I clearly remember as a kid that we would all gather as a family and pray our daily rosary. As the beads went through our fingers we would meditate on scripture readings. It seemed that especially during the Lenten season these readings were not stories of the glory of the resurrection, but more of wrath, hurt, pain, suffering, and despair. There are some pretty depressing readings during the lenten season, obviously ending with the atrocity of the crucifixion.

You can imagine the immense satisfaction that I felt waking up this morning and reading, “For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” Not quite the typical solemn readings that we sometimes hear during this season. Anyone that has ever met me, knows that I am a very optimistic person. I always think the best of people and strive to help them reach their full potential. Today’s first reading from Isaiah is a fantastic reminder that joy and suffering are not opposed.

Now this idea seems a little strange at first glance; how could joy and suffering not be diametrically opposed to each other? After all, we are not happy when we suffer. I don’t know of anyone who laughs while standing in line at the department of motor vehicles. I think the problem in our culture is that we think joy and happiness are the same thing, and this is simply not true. Happiness is an emotion that happens to us as a result of a stimulus. Joy is a virtue; it is a choice that no matter what is happening to us, we can have a positive disposition. You might say that happiness remains on the level of reflex until it enters our will and either flatlines or becomes virtue.

These ideas are a little heavy, but it is actually quite simple. Suffering is not something we were meant for, but a consequence of the original sin. We were meant for joy, we were created to have perfect joy with each other and with God himself. Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross attained for us eternal salvation, giving us the perfect example of how joy can come from even the most horrendous action.

This is good news for optimists and pessimists alike. The problem of evil in the world is one that always makes me uncomfortable. How can a loving God allow such horrible suffering? When these thoughts creep into my mind, I always think back on the crucifixion. Without the crucifixion we would not be able to intimately participate in the Divine Nature of God in heaven someday. The darkest time in human history brought about the most immense joy.

What are you suffering with today? What struggles do you have that make you angry at God or at the very least make it hard to see that joy could eventually come from this? We all have pain and heartache in this life, but God promises that, “All things work together for good to them that love Him.” I challenge you today to give your suffering to Christ. Allow him to walk with you through that suffering. After all, Jesus suffered, he sweat blood, he wept, he endured human suffering, and he can help you experience joy when it may seem impossible.

“For I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” ~Isaiah 65: 18-19

As a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage. He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at tshultz@diocesan.com or find him online at www.rodzinkaministry.com.