A Process of Accepting Suffering

The following is a reflection that my spiritual director sent to me. I have adapted it slightly. There is much wisdom here.

1.    Enter into the Lord’s presence and ask for His insight and grace as you seek to understand and lean into your suffering for the sake of your own salvation and that of those whom God has placed in your care.

2.    Reflect on life events or circumstances that are troubling you now or over a period of time (hours, day, days, week, month…).

3.    Name the suffering you experience (i.e., what physical/emotional/spiritual pain, disappointment, failure, frustration, loneliness, anxiety, being overwhelmed…).  There could be one suffering or a list, a litany of suffering.

4.    Acknowledge these suffering(s) to yourself recalling that you are in the presence of God.  “God, I know you are present to me.  These are the sufferings (name) that I have experienced (over a period of time – day/week/month…).”

5.    Accept or better Embrace these sufferings in a spirit of prayer and resignation.  This burden has to accepted by one’s self alone.  This is the hardest part.  “I accept these sufferings (can be named again.)”

6.    Offer to God the sufferings that you have just reflected on, named, and accepted.  A person can’t offer up to God what they haven’t accepted.  You can’t give what you don’t possess.  Acceptance is an indication of possession, ownership.  “Lord I offer to You all these sufferings (can be named again) which I have just accepted.  The acceptance and offering up sufferings have now become sacrifices.  “Lord these are my sacrifices given to you.”  You can then name people or situations that you would like to offer your sufferings for.

7.    Recognize that though what you offer is a pittance, that God’s grace will magnify your gift into an abundance of grace poured out upon the world and the needs before you. In this way, you participate in the Lord’s redemption of His people.

While this process can be done at any time, the greatest opportunity for grace as a result of offering up accepted suffering(s) – sacrifices – is during the Offertory at Mass.  Now God, through the priest, will take your sacrifices and turn them into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The effect on a soul who worthily receives the Eucharist, after offering up their personally, accepted sacrifices, is immediate.  Giving God our sacrifices is ordinarily what we are supposed to do at this point of the Mass anyway.

When a person has taken these steps they can be certain that God is with them in their struggle.  They are no longer alone.  The response of God would be the granting of the grace of the Peace of Christ.  While the suffering may not go away, the person is no longer alone, in a supreme way as they are now being accompanied by Christ in much the same way that Jesus taught, “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you.  Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.  Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light,” Matt.11:28-30.

If for some reason a person cannot make the act of acceptance on their own, they can ask God to help them.  “Lord help me to accept these sufferings which I desire to offer up to you.”  God is generous and knows your limitations.  He will help even in this.

9 thoughts on “A Process of Accepting Suffering”

  1. This is beautiful, Dan, thank you. I currently am in an Endow class at my church studying John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris, his letter about why God allows suffering and how we are to understand it and participate in it as a means to our sanctification.
    Also, this month’s Magnificant has a jewel on page 183 written by Caryll Houselander, a British poet, mystic and spiritual teacher.
    He said “We are here on earth to help carry the cross of Christ, the Christ hidden in other human beings, and to help in whatever way we can. We may, like Simon of Cyrene, have literally a strong arm to give, we may help to do hard work, we may have material goods to give; we may have time, which we desperately want for ourselves but which we must sacrifice for Christ.
    We may have only suffering. Suffering IS THE MOST PRECIOUS COIN OF ALL. Suffering of body, suffering of mind, paid down willingly for Christ in man, enables him to carry his redeeming cross through the world to the end of time. “

  2. God’s timing makes me smile. I met an acquaintance at the grocery last evening. We talked about several things but she asked me about prayer and her struggle finding time and shared her challenges of motherhood as she works full time. She shared some sufferings she is facing now. I listened and made some simples suggestions about these things and then I received this last night and it was great confirmation as well as learning we must never forget to “accept” the suffering so we can offer it! Thanks so much, I cannot wait to print this out. Thanks for teaching me so I can, by God’s grace, help led others to Christ!

  3. This is perfect timing…Leading the study on Salvifici Doloris this year and printed this to hand out to everyone on Monday – it’s now in the hands of 60 appreciative women.
    Most eye-opening part for me: You can’t offer up what you don’t accept!
    Thanks.

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