Suffering can be greatly meritorious and yet it can easily camouflage the presence of God in the soul. As we become more and more spirit-filled, though, it becomes easier to find meaning in the ever-present sufferings of life. We see that each Person of the Trinity, in his own way, shines a divine light on one or other of the many facets of the diamond of suffering to bring out its iridescence and beauty.
When we're really hurting, like a youngster with a skin-scrape after a fall, we might be inspired to let our heavenly Father sweep us into his loving arms and smother us with loving compassion and tender paternal care, all the while reminding us that ultimately everything will be all right. He gently encourages us to trust in him with perfect abandonment to his will in every trial and tribulation that befalls us, when we can't see reason for it.
The Father may help us to understand that by allowing to land flat on our back in sickness and pain he forces us to take time to look up. As C.S. Lewis put it, "God whispers to us in our pleasures; he speaks to us in our work; but he shouts to us in our pain” – which is often the very time we refuse to listen. In midst of a hardship it's not easy to believe the words of Jeremiah: 'Though the Lord brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men" (Lam 3:31). Still, this is the truth!
Jesus may relate to us differently than the Father does. In our suffering he might remind us of his promise: "In this world you will haw trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33). He might dissolve our self-pity as we view a crucifix while trying – unsuccessfully – to imagine him uttering our own self-pitying words, "What did I do to deserve this?" Or he may show us that we are afraid to offer our bodies "as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1).
Jesus may show us how suffering can work to disengage us from sinful habits. He may encourage you to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, that you may overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Pt 4:13). Or he may reveal a transcendent meaning in suffering, as he did to his apostles: "This sickness... is for God's glory, so that God's Son may be glorified through it" (Jn 11;4). His beatitudinal words may echo through our minds in the face of opposition: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds Of evil against you... rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven" (Mt 5:11-12).
The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called Comforter, ministers comfort to us in our trials: Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones" (Is 49:13). A forceful Hebrew construction highlights his personal compassion: “I even I, am he who comforts you" (Is 51:12). There is a note of tenderness here too: "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you" (Is 66:13). Through the Holy Spirit we have a standing offer of his great gift of fortitude in our suffering (see Isaiah 1l :2). He intercedes for our relief by praying through us himself with the gift of tongues: Spirit helps us in our weakness [he] himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Rom 8:26).
From this it should clear that the one triune God functions in our souls with the varied patterns of each Person in the Trinity. This triune God-presence offers us a spectrum of divine dynamics to make us truly God-like: God's indwelling presence, Spirit-baptism, inspirations of grace, support in suffering, and countless other forms of divine involvement. All these expressions of God's love don't come to us merely occsionally We are being blessed minute by minute with his gifts, with every breath we take.
Since God uses suffering for our sanctification and his glory if we endure it in accordance with his will and designs, any given moment—painful or joyful—can be consecrated to him and thus redound enormously to our advantage. This is why Peter can urge, "Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you" (l Pt 5:7; Ps 55:22). This involves a kind of trustful commitment: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him" (Ps 37:5). Thus, the darkest midnight experiences of your coming weeks, months, or years are special opportunities to offer the Lord this commitment of surrender to his providence.
This excerpt is from the book The Art of Loving God by John H. Hampsch, C.M.F., originally published by Servant Publications, 1995. This and other of Fr. Hampsch's books and audio/visual materials can be purchased from Claretian Teaching Ministry, 20610 Manhattan Pl, #120, Torrance, CA 90501-1863. Phone 1-310-782-6408.