Rejoice in suffering

Lately, the number one question I get asked from friends and family or just about anyone who is talking to me about the fact that I’m entering the convent in 15 days is “How’re you feeling?” or “Are you excited?” Most of the time when people are asking this all they really want to hear is yes, I am excited. They aren’t looking for much more. I am excited, but my answer is a little more complicated than that.

In society today, we tend to glance over the tough stuff, the nitty gritty. We don’t do things we don’t want to. There is no standard for sticking to commitments, if something better comes along we do that. If someone is suffering, we want their suffering to end as quickly and easily as possible. If we can prevent people from suffering at all we think that is best. But here’s the thing, there is a purpose to suffering.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians he says, “I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.” (1:24) He’s basically saying that our suffering adds to Christ’s suffering. It allows us to unite ourselves with the sacrifice that Christ made and work alongside Christ in the act of redemption of souls. The catechism says, “Because in [Jesus’] incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.” (618)  My point is that we shouldn’t just disregard suffering or run away from it or think that it is worthless because it has a purpose. It not only draws us closer to God but it can help to bring others closer to Him as well.

I don’t want you to think that what I’m saying is that all I’m going to be doing when I enter the convent is suffering either, because that’s not the point of this post. The point is that with joy you also get suffering. While I surely am excited for my future, I am also currently experiencing a lot of pain in having to say goodbye to so many people I love. I know that it is all in God’s plan. I trust that it will bring good. I look forward to getting to know my community better, to the prayer and routine of daily life, to learning more about the history of the church and franciscans, and to everything else that I’ll experience.

To get to the point where I’ll be doing all of these things, I first have to say goodbye. And goodbyes hurt. Leaving behind people I love dearly is going to be really difficult. I’m starting to enter into the reality of this choice. When Jesus’ calls He doesn’t just ask us to follow Him, He asks us to pick up our cross, to leave everything behind, and then follow Him.

It’s time for me to pick up my cross, which right now is the pain of goodbyes, and continue following Him. I’m trying to learn how to rejoice in my suffering because there is a purpose and in it I can grow closer to the Lord. So, to answer the question that everyone is asking me, yes I am excited, but there is much more going on than just that. And to understand the full picture is to better understand what it truly means to follow Christ. It’s not going to be all rainbows and butterflies. It’s not going to be easy all the time, but I can promise you that it’s worth the struggle.

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