Practicing the Spirit of Self-sacrifice and Giving

If there is one thing that modern medicine has taught me, it has to be my approach and attitude towards pain and suffering: “Go see a doctor, go see a pharmacist, take some medication, do something, but don’t put up with the pain!”

Just the other day I was experiencing a slight migraine headache, so I found myself in the Shoppers Drug Mart buying Tylenol. As I was walking out of the store, I thought to myself, “Did the pain cause slight discomfort?” “Yes.” “But was this a cause of great concern?” “No, not really.” If this was the case, why did I drive to the drug store in the middle of the night to buy the pain relief medication? Perhaps I had bought into the premise that it isn’t normal or necessary to accept pain. How did the people in the old days handle pain when medication was unavailable or simply out of reach?

I remember meeting an elderly gentleman several years ago; he happened to be one of the holiest persons
I knew. And he also happened to be a joy to be around. He has suffered much, but instead of allowing pain and suffering to transform him, he transformed the reality of pain and suffering – instead of letting his pain and suffering dictate his attitude and disposition in life, he used his experience of pain and suffering to become compassionate and sympathetic towards others. The truth is, crosses are unavoidable in life. Jesus told His disciples to “take up your cross daily and come follow me.”

Of course, I am not saying that we must suffer every single pain and do nothing to avoid it. Like the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” we need to discern and pray for wisdom. But God is well aware of the pain and suffering in our lives. If He wanted it any other way, He would have done something about it and we wouldn’t be in the situation we are presently in.

The reason God allows pain and suffering is because, like He did to the elderly gentleman I mentioned earlier, He can use pain and sufferings in our lives to communicate with us and transform us – “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world (C. S. Lewis).” Yes, in case you didn’t know, God does speak to us in our pain and suffering, if only we will have ears to listen.

Everyone feels pain; it is a universal human experience. Even Jesus suffered and died. But why? Many scholars have written volumes on the ‘why’ He suffered. So, if I were to summarize it all simply, it would be, “For whom did Jesus suffer and die?” And the answer is very simple; it says it all – “He suffered for you and me!” There is no other reason than us! Compassion is the answer: com- passio (to suffer with). He suffered with us, and in suffering He transformed the reality and meaning of human suffering. Our Suffering has a redemptive quality…our suffering unites us to Christ; it does not go to waste.

Why should we accept our crosses daily? When we look at the nail marks and the scars left by the Crucifixion on Jesus, we know how much He loves us. Those scars are the proof of His love! So love is the answer. If we accept our crosses daily and carry them willingly, love is the reason why we do it!

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