Catholic Faith: Blog
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Suffering in this way gives me greater hope, that from my illness comes my joy, knowing that I suffer with Christ, or rather He suffers with me. For through His strength I can do all things, and through His death I may be pain-free with Him in heaven.
Suffering with any illness, be it mental, physical, emotional or even spiritual is consequential to original sin. That's right, due to one man's disobedience, sin and death entered this world. This is not to say that any other man (except Jesus) could have resisted the very temptation Adam fell victim to. No one is exempt from it, we all suffer and fall victim one way or another.
I personally suffer with bone, joint and muscle pain caused by a disease known as Ankylosing Spondylitis. It’s a chronic, progressive and inflammatory disease which is incurable. I know first-hand what it means to suffer with pain, fatigue, sleepless nights and a laundry list of other symptoms.
Through my Catholic faith and faith in Jesus Christ, I am a man of God. I encountered this faith long before I was diagnosed, but all the while, I was feeling the effects of my illness. Throughout the years prior to my diagnosis, I prayed for healing; but it was never received. Rather, it all became much worse. By 2005 I became fully disabled. At this time, I was at the peak of my career. My two children were enrolled in Catholic schools and we had just purchased our dream home. Through this process, my faith has undoubtedly been tested. With God’s grace, I never turned my back on the Lord; I was actually drawn closer to Him. God never promised us a rose garden, but what He did promise us was that we would be tested. We will all be called to take up our cross and follow Him. We will be persecuted for His sake. He also promised, for the one who would endure this cross to the end, shall be saved.
Believe me when I say, I understand how hard it is to be in chronic pain and suffering. Consistent pain will bring you to a low place. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his weakness, his limitations and even a glimpse of death. Illness can lead us to anxiety, self-absorption, sometimes despair and an attitude of putting the blame others - especially on God. In contrast, illness and suffering can also nudge a person into mature spiritual thought, helping him to realize what is most important in this life, which is why we search out God.
It is certainly true in my case, that the pain and suffering I experience has brought me into a deeper relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As Paul writes in Romans 5:4, “But we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."
Take courage and unite your sufferings with Christ on His cross. Your sufferings joined with Jesus’s is made valuable; valuable not only for you, but for those you love and Christ's Church (Colossians 1:24). Suffering in this way gives me greater hope, that from this illness comes my joy, knowing that I suffer with Christ, or rather He suffers with me, since through His strength I can do all things and through His death I may be pain-free in heaven.