Currently Reading: Salvifici Doloris by Pope St. John Paul II

In my life right now, I’ve recently started to really confront some personal struggles. By doing so, I’ve realized how much I have to work on in order to heal from the sufferings I’ve endured.

It’s scary. It’s incredibly liberating.  As I’m overcoming self, my life isn’t getting any easier to deal with. The warm fuzzy feelings are not the prize for really wrestling with myself. Actually, I feel like I’m suffering more.

Human suffering is an interesting thing to contemplate. It’s inevitable though it may come in different degrees varying from typical first world problems like losing an iPhone charger to matters of life and death or torture. The list goes on.  Looking back at my own life, I can definitely recall moments of great suffering that couldn’t be avoided. Do I wish I could go back in time and free myself from such pain? Yes, but at the same time I realized that such moments had to happen in order for me to grow as a person.

In all my recent seemingly magnified suffering, I’ve learned to acknowledge that these moments are opportunities to grow, but I still inhale at suffering well. I inhale at approaching my suffering. I inhale at embracing my suffering. It’s been such a non-Hawaiian roller coaster ride (I recently saw Lilo & Stitch…) of emotions and sufferings lately for me, but my attitude about the inevitable suffering from it all has not been great. That’s a personal struggle, too, on how to suffer well and embrace it.

Praise God I have a spiritual director! Again, a spiritual director is someone who can help guide someone through how their spiritual life plays into their life. And again, mine is a local Catholic priest.

I met up with him recently to begin talking about what I’m going through. It was a really good meeting, but as these things often go, I’m confronted with a sense of humility because I’ve realized that my way isn’t necessarily the best way of handling my life. I left that meeting feeling more down simply because  my attitude regarding my sufferings and trials were too self-centered rather than oriented towards God. It’s almost as if I am unwilling to part with desiring pity.

Still, it was a really good and necessary meeting. He affirmed my taking steps to really confront my struggles, but he helped me realized that the inevitable suffering as a result of fighting such fights needs to be embraced. He mentioned that according to St. Thomas Aquinas, there are three levels of dealing with suffering: 1) kicking and screaming 2) accepting it but disliking it and 3) embracing it. Really embracing suffering is the only way for me to be free and have a sense of liberty and peace with whatever I’m dealing with.

That is so freakin’ hard.

I’m constantly reminded of my inner struggles regarding particular matters. And I’m supposed to embrace them? Psh. But, no. There is wisdom and precedence in that. How can I call myself Christian if I do not embrace my suffering just as Jesus Christ embraced His?

So that’s why, as a result of this meeting with my spiritual director, he recommended that I read the apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris by Pope Saint John Paul II. It’s on the meaning of Christian suffering and how suffering has salvific power. Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection gives such a profound and salvific meaning to human suffering. I have a lot of room to grow in this area on how to deal with suffering. I just started this apostolic letter, and it’s already given me good nuggets to think about and reflect/pray on. Now, last time I met with my spiritual director, he assigned me to read Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. That book helped me realize the importance of attaching meaning to my suffering because that whole idea is what helped Dr. Frankl and other inmates at a Nazi concentration camp endure all that they had to endure in order to survive.

Suffering. Such a fascinating thing to contemplate and reflect on. I’m spoiled as a Catholic because I have this opportunity to really enter deeply on the meaning of suffering and how that plays into my life. I’m grateful that what I’m dealing with now is mostly internal struggles and not the craziness that Christians in Iraq are having to deal with right now. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about getting shot in the back, beheaded, hung, or undergoing atrocious ways to die because I’m Christian…at least for today. Either way, I cannot let their suffering go to waste. Their suffering is not in vain.

In a feeble attempt to unite my suffering to theirs, and ultimately unite our suffering to Christ on the cross, I’ll strive to offer those moments of suffering up for Christians in Iraq. They need our prayers.

– JD

To read Salvifici Doloris online, click here. It’s free!

Christ embracing His cross // (image from The Passion)