We each suffer differently in our journey towards holiness, living the life that God calls us to. The nature of our struggles and the way we cope differs from person to person and they are often a reflection of our relationship with God. Before we try to make sense of what suffering is, it is important for us to first understand what “suffering” really means. The word suffering originates from the Latin word “sufferre”, where “sub” means “from below” and “ferre” refers to “to bear”. The origin of the word tells us that to suffer, we need to be humble enough to endure the weight of burden given unto us. This is just like Jesus who was humble enough to take up such great humiliation and torture to bring us salvation.


When we confidently commit to follow Christ, there is no way for us to omit sufferings from the journey of faith. This is evident in Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Suffering is part of the journey we take on with Christ, hence, we need to learn to embrace it and have faith that He will carry us through. This trust in Him is further intensified through the reassurance He offered us in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This mere confidence that He is our strength at our weakest, is enough to take us through the storms in our lives.


The question then is why does God our loving Father allow us to suffer?


Well, I see suffering as a good test of our grit in safeguarding our identity as God’s beloved children. God is perfect and He has created us in His image, therefore, we need to strive to achieve that perfection. Since God is love, the perfection that we want to strive for is the perfect love that we can offer to people around us. Through suffering, we are made to challenge the resistance to love even in the discomfort we have. This is what I have come to realise in my recent struggles with collaborating with my project group members, where sufferings were great during that period of time, but the resolution was beautiful because of the love that I was graced with.


Simply put, suffering is the way in which God shapes us to become His perfect masterpiece. Take for example a child, to a child, suffering might be to be deprived of having his favourite sweet but as the child grows older, this might not be something he bats an eyelid about as he has matured. In the same way, suffering at any point of life might be unpleasant but it is through them that we grow stronger and that God draws forth the potential that He knows is within us.


In John 15, Jesus says that every branch that bears fruit would be pruned so that it bears more fruit. Imagine if a branch were a person, would not pruning be similar to suffering, because to be pruned would be for the branch to accept a part of it being cut away – a very painful process. Yet, many of us would agree that the branch should be pruned so that it bears more fruit because we see the good that the pruning would bring to the branch. Likewise, suffering by itself is pointless if we fail to see the good it can bring to us.


If you were given an option to choose life without sufferings, will you take it? For me, I would rather choose to suffer. It might sound insane, but I really cherish the moments where I had to go through the pain of sufferings because that is when I can clearly see how incapable I am without Him, it is when I feel the closest to Him, it is when I experience the purest joy in my heart. Whenever my sufferings overwhelm me, I find myself running into His embrace more frequently, as I fully acknowledge how limited I am on my own. Like what Mother Teresa said, “Pain and suffering have come into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.” Indeed these sufferings help me realise that Jesus has always been beside me, just that I was too restless to notice it. Hence, it is only through these sufferings that I am more aware of God’s presence in my life as I keep still to let Him direct my heart.


It is truly comforting to know that God is always ever ready to help us bear the burdens of our sufferings if we allow Him to. Treasure the moments of immense joy and peace experienced when you lean on Jesus to cope with your sufferings. Sing Him songs of praise for the growth that you have in this process just like St Therese of Lisieux “I will sing even when I must pick my flowers amid thorns. The longer and sharper the thorns are, the sweeter my song will sound.”


By Melliana