Jesus calls us to suffer joyfully. But for many, these two words do not even belong in the same sentence. That might be because our understanding of suffering is flawed. I know mine was. But then, when I watched someone I loved become sick and suffer, this concept of joyful suffering began to make perfect sense.
On December 28, 2015, my father was diagnosed with Stage III multiple myeloma. The doctors told us that he had the most aggressive form they had ever seen and that the cancer had spread throughout his body. My father proceeded to receive chemotherapy, radiation, countless blood transfusions and a bone marrow transplant, all in hopes of increasing his life span by a few years. First, he lost his hair, then he lost weight, eventually he could no longer walk without a walker, he lost his memory and became frustrated very easily. The man who I looked up to as a hero was now incapable of caring for himself. He was in so much pain that many nights he could not even sleep and when he did sleep, you could still hear him crying.
What is remarkable about his story, is that my father never lost his sense of humour throughout the whole process. He still made jokes, poked fun at his children and laughed like nothing was wrong. Even in his suffering he was joyful. This joy did not come from something fleeting, but rather from the fact that he understood his identity as a Son of God. My father understood that no matter what happened, God was in control. Perhaps more importantly than this, my father understood that his suffering had meaning. He understood that in uniting his suffering to the suffering of Christ on the cross, he could help many souls enter heaven.
My father passed away on the feast of the triumph of the cross, surrounded by his friends and family, just after we had finished praying the Our Father. My father’s suffering had ended and the Lord made sure that he was surrounded by love at the time of his death. When we use our suffering to help those around us, we must not be worried about ourselves, for God will take care of us.
I would like to challenge you today. Next time you encounter suffering in your life, no matter how small, I ask that you offer it up for those who are hurting in this world, but do it joyfully. You have a God who loves you so much that he would die for you on the cross! If nothing else, find joy in that!