Suffering and Joy

April 18, 2014

Suffering and Joy

How are suffering and joy connected? What is the purpose of suffering? How can God who is good allow us to suffer? How can we transcend suffering?

Our world view tends to dictate our response to suffering. No matter how we try to answer these questions one thing is for certain. We realize that suffering is a mystery. And this mystery has the power to transform us.

For persons of faith, we know that suffering can be turned into joy. Our greatest example is Jesus Christ who endured a horrific torture leading to death on a cross but was resurrected on the third day to bring salvation to the world. How can one not rejoice in that?

St. Francis of Assisi gave an example of perfect joy. Once he said to his companion: “I would not seem to myself to be a Friar Minor unless I were in the state I will describe to you.” And he said: “Suppose I, being a prelate among the brothers, should go to the chapter and preach and admonish the brothers, and at the end of this should be said against me: ‘An unlettered and contemptible person is not suitable for us; therefore we do not want you to rule over us, because you have no eloquence, you are simple and unlettered’ At length I am thrown out with reproaches and despised by all. I say to you, unless I listen to these words with the same face, with the same joy, with the same purpose of sanctity, I am in no way a Friar Minor.” And he added: “In an office is found an occasion for a fall; in praise, an occasion for complete destruction; in the humility of being a subject, an occasion for profit for the soul. Why then do we pay more attention to the dangers than to the profit, when we have time to gain profit?” (1)

St. Francis to Friar Leo: “And now, Friar Leo, hear the conclusion. Above and beyond all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ gives to His beloved, is the gift of overcoming self and of bearing willingly for the love of Christ, insults, revilings, and discomfort; for in all the other gifts of God we may not glory, seeing that they are not ours, but of God; therefore the Apostle saith: ‘What hast thou that is not of God and if thou hast received it of Him, wherefore dost thou glory as if thou hadst if of thyself?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory for this is ours, and therefore the Apostle saith: ‘I will not glory save in the Cross of Christ.’ To whom be ever honour and glory, world without end. Amen.” (2)

So one can say that the purpose of suffering is to bring us joy. One can also gain understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and hope through suffering. Suffering can increase virtues such as fortitude, humility, faith, hope, trust, etc. that would not be as easily attainable when one is not under a challenge and is in a state of complacency. In a perfect world there would be no need for suffering but since we don’t live in a perfect world, we enter into suffering to exit in a more perfect state.

St. Peter invites us to rejoice because our suffering will increase our faith. “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Pt 1:6-7 NAB)

Some ways to transcend suffering include “desert time” such as during the season of Lent. Depriving oneself of worldly pleasures, sacrificing and being of service to others, journeying with others in their sufferings, etc. — all of these help bring us to spiritual maturity and are of great benefit. Joining our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross help us to see those sufferings in a new light with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

St. Paul reflects on suffering and its purpose as follows: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings 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, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” (Col 1:24-27 NAB)

So even though suffering is a mystery, we know that there is much to be gained through it. So rejoice and be glad for your sufferings.

I pray that your Lenten desert time has brought you to a new level of understanding, knowledge, wisdom, hope, and joy!


1. St. Francis of Assisi by Thomas of Celano, Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago 9, Illinois, 1963, p. 254.

2. The Little Flowers of St Francis, The “Fioretti”, edited by the Franciscan Father Zeffirino Lazzeri, Giulio Giannini & Son, Publishers, Florence, Italy, pp 44, 46.

Seven Reasons to Give Thanks

November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Blessings


Thanksgiving Day is a day of rest and time to reflect on our many blessings. I offer some food for thought on seven reasons to give thanks. May your day be full of joy as you contemplate the many reasons for an attitude of gratitude in your life!

The seven reasons (health, home, family, friendships, work, worship, and country), and these are not in any particular order of importance, are listed below with some reasons why they should be worthy of your gratitude.

Health – I always say “Your health is your wealth” when I try to explain to someone why they may need to consider a certain regimen in their health care. It is a much better quality of life when you can maintain health rather than work at trying to regain it! When you are sick, you may not feel well, lack energy and focus, feel anxious or depressed, have pain or limited mobility, and much more. When you recover, it is easy to feel a sense of gratitude for the renewed energy, etc. It is more difficult to remember to be thankful when you are feeling well but cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one way to help you stay healthy. Being grateful and giving thanks actually help boost your immune system and give you a sense of well-being, happiness, and joy. Your life is fuller! So give thanks for your good health! (And if your health is not so good give thanks anyway that you recognize this fact and then do all that is in your power to improve it.)

Home – Home is where the heart is! Your home is your haven. It is where you can rest, relax, enjoy family and friends, and so much more. Your home is your compass. It is the center of your existence. Without a home, you have no focal point from which to proceed. Your home environment helps to shape who you are. If you feel safe at home, you can proceed into the world with confidence. If your home provides shelter and a warm and loving atmosphere, you can thrive in whatever you do. I hope you can feel gratitude for your home and all that it provides for you.

Family – Your family provides the relationships that you need for your existence. No man is an island! Those relationships nurture you through love, affirmation, nurturing, mentoring, and other facets of relationship that are the glue of your being. These core aspects of relationship form who you are and prepare you for life outside of the home, in the work place and in society in general. May you find love, peace, and joy in your home and in your family and may you recognize them through gratitude in the way that you respond in your family relationships.

Friendships – Your friendships are the “icing on the cake” of interacting in the world. They are an added bond that brings you to a fuller realization of your worth. Positive interactions in these relationships help to propel you to generosity of heart that is so needed in the world. May your friendships bring you to the awareness of gratitude for those relationships in your life.

Work – While work can be hard, and at times can be a source of stress, work is actually a good thing. It provides for financial security. Work also brings structure to your life and satisfaction in a job well done and adds dignity and a sense of self worth. Just ask anyone who has lost their job and they will talk about depression, anxiety, and loss of self esteem. Through your work you not only help yourself and your dependents, you also provide goods and services that are needed in your community. Your work benefits others and this also brings wholeness to your life. So why wouldn’t you be grateful for employment?

Worship – We live in a country where we have freedom of religion! That is our sacred right! We were created with the instinct and attraction to the Divine so we can offer gratitude that we recognize this innate need and that we have the freedom to express that part of our being. Thank You, Lord God Almighty!

Country – We live in the greatest country in the world. We have freedom, security, wealth, and justice. While our county is not perfect, it was founded on sound principles and we are blessed to have a Constitution that affirms that we are endowed with inalienable rights. Gratitude is in order here!

May God bless you and may God bless America!

Feel free to post your reasons below for gratitude this Thanksgiving Day!


Faith – A Christian Reality

May 22, 2013

Just have faith!

Just have faith!


“Just have faith!” How often have you heard that phrase? Does it leave you feeling peaceful, trusting, hopeful, bewildered, frustrated, doubtful, enraged?

Faith is a commonly invoked idea. But what is it and what purpose does it serve? How do you acquire it?

The Biblical definition of faith according to the New American Bible is “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1 NAB)

Faith is a grace and free gift from God. We have the free will to accept or reject this grace. The more we exercise our faith, the more it grows. “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Mt 17: 20b NAB) The ability to exercise our faith is based in our relationship with God. This relationship grows primarily through prayer and obedience to His Word. “Pray without ceasing.” (1Thes 5:17 NAB) “He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” (Lk 11:28 NAB)

God is present in every circumstance of our lives. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.” (Jer 1:5 NAB) As we grow in knowledge of His Word and experience of His presence, we begin to see with our spiritual eyes the Truth and we grow stronger in the reality of who God is and who we are and how much He loves and cares for us. This growing understanding within causes us to grow in faith. It also opens up our understanding to God’s ways which helps us to understand pain and suffering and many other mysteries of life.

A good way to grow in our understanding and faith is through daily journaling, reflecting on the day’s events and how God was present in them. When reading these journal entries at a later date and re-reflecting on them, we begin to marvel at the intricate existence of God in our lives. This shear realization encourages our faith!

Faith is also nurtured in community and this growing faith helps us to serve our community. Our faith community is vital. Attendance at church, Bible study, prayer services, small Christian communities, apostolic ministries, etc. – all of these are opportunities for us to exercise and grow in faith. Remember that exercising our faith is an important part of growing in faith! When we are of service to others, God blesses us by increasing our gifts and healing us. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” (Lk 6:38 NAB) He makes us stronger and more effective disciples. Remember, however, that to glorify God, we must serve with humility and accept our weaknesses. “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ;for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor 12:10 NAB)

There is much to learn about our infinite God. Growing in faith is a life-long journey. There will be times when our faith diminishes and times when it will be stronger. This is normal and not a cause for alarm. Continue your quest for faith. Pray for it daily. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. You will not be disappointed!” (Mt 7:7-8 NAB) When your faith wanes pray, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24b NAB)

How will you exercise your faith today??

Just have faith!! May you accept it, grow in it, live it, sow it, and reap it! This is my prayer for you.



Does God Test/Tempt Us?

July 1, 2012


Jesus Carries His Cross

Picture obtained from

Does God test/tempt us? I believe the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”! Paraphrasing Jesus, he said to “take up your cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23 NAB)

Let me start with the definitions of test and tempt that I am referring to in this blog. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of test I am using for the purpose of this blog is “to put to test or proof” and for tempt is the obsolete definition, “to make trial of”.

I believe every trial that we experience is on some level a test from God, not that He causes us to have the trial, but that He uses it for our benefit. While we frequently experience negative consequences from trials, we can also learn from them and grow stronger because of these trials.

2 Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,
3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (Jas 1:2-3 NAB)

6 In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials,
7 so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pt 1:6-7 NAB)

Some trials that we experience are because of our own failings, short-comings, or sins but even these trials can bring us benefit. 

20 The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 5:20-21 NAB)

Sometimes, I believe that God does test/tempt us for our sanctification.

25 Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors.
26 Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother.
27 He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.” (Judith 8:25-27 NAB)

God can also test us by pruning to make us more fruitful. Read the book of Job in the Old Testament to read about Job’s trials and how he became more fruitful because he maintained his trust in God through the testing of his faith.

If God does not test us, why did Jesus add “Lead us not into temptation” or in another translation “Do not let us undergo the test” in The Lord’s Prayer?

These are just a few of the many examples cited in Scripture to show how our relationship with God requires testing. How else would we grow in knowledge and love of Him?

I am available to speak to your group on topics in Christian spirituality. You may contact me at to discuss the details of your needs.

Please feel free to comment on your own experiences of how God has tested you!

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