I was sitting in Eucharistic Adoration one evening recently and was crying out to God to relieve me of a suffering that has been years in the making. I prayed intensely for God to heal me of this burden once and for all because it continuously leads to strife.
What God spoke back to me that night was suprising: Child, your sufferings have worked for your good.
That evening He had me recall the good that those sufferings worked in my life. Had it not been for them, even the sins and deep spiritual battles, would I have experienced the profound conversion of faith that I had? Would I have attained the wisdom I needed to change? Would I have grown as close to God? Would I have gone so frequently to Reconciliation which has given me incredible graces? Would certain people have touched me in a way that prompted me to respond faithfully? Would I be sitting in Adoration praying so fervently? Would I go to daily Mass? Would I say the rosary every day?
Probably not. God is using suffering for my redemption. In trying to get rid of my sins and suffering, it has led me new spiritual practices that have produced good fruit.
I've been reading Pope John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris, and it's given me a new outlook on suffering. If you haven't read it, much of the piece is about the redemptive and salvific meaning of suffering. In other words, it's for our good and our salvation in God's bigger plan. We are meant to participate in the sufferings of Christ as His followers, and in doing so, draw closer to Him and His kingdom.
"Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation." (Salvifici Doloris)
So often we try to find a way out of pain. We don't embrace it. We fight it. We try to run from it, and in doing so, we miss it's meaning. We miss it's power to make us new, to help us discover a new dimension of our lives -- which often is drawing us closer to Christ.
Are you letting suffering draw you closer to Christ? Are you letting it make you new? Take some time and think about what God may be trying to do through the sufferings He's given you. You may just get a similar answer that I got and find new meaning in your suffering.