Thomas died and I suffered and I had no idea what it all meant. I constantly cried to God, “Why?” and one day I started to understand just a little.

I realised that suffering isn’t meaningless at all. In fact it is very valuable. And for the first time in my life, I knew I had something big to give back to God. I could accept the suffering and offer it for the salvation of souls, including my own.

Suffering day in and day out is not easy. I felt like I was drowning. Many times I fell down and never wanted to get up again. I didn’t want to say, “God, if you allow me to suffer, then I will accept it.” I wanted to cry, “I have had enough. Please take away the pain. I want to feel joy once more.” But the grief seemed never ending and joy seemed a long way off, so I did my best to be patient and make the most of my opportunity to earn grace for souls.

I read the writings of saints who were intimate with suffering and I decided that I was going to be a saint too. Thomas’ short life and my intense pain would not go to waste. I started to think in terms of, “Will this advance my journey to heaven? Will this help save souls?” I wanted to choose the more difficult path and embrace pain. I was convinced that the fastest and surest way to become holy was through suffering.

I shared my thoughts about suffering with my children:  there is nothing more important than suffering for God; this world is in dire need of the graces obtained from suffering; anything that doesn’t involve suffering is worthless…

I was convinced this was true… almost. The saints seemed to find joy in their suffering and want nothing else. But some days I faltered. I looked at other people who were happy and involved with the ordinary things of life and deep down, I yearned to be like them too. I especially wanted to feel the joy of new life. Although I tried very hard to suppress the desire for another child, I couldn’t quite succeed.

Eventually, we did find out that I was pregnant again. I expected to feel great happiness but instead, I was afraid. I went to see a priest: “Father, if suffering is so valuable perhaps God will take this child from us too. Our suffering would be far more useful than our joy.”

The priest replied, “God doesn’t want us only to suffer. He wants us to experience joy as well. He wants to give us a taste of heaven here on earth. You should celebrate the new life you have been given.”

We never did have that baby. Our celebration was short-lived despite Father’s words. And so I continued to suffer.

But eventually I knew I could never be a victim soul. I was tired. I needed happiness here in this world and so did my family. I wanted to experience more than suffering. I prayed and I hoped. Gradually I began to take pleasure in the ordinary things of life and my heart healed. I think I could have been happy with that alone, but God blessed us with another child. He sent us joy.

I think back to that time when suffering was the focus of our life. When I tried to convince myself and our children that suffering was everything. Nothing else was important. I thought we could survive without the lighter things of life, but we couldn’t. Life, which was already painful, became intense and narrow and even heavier to bear.

I still think suffering is infinitely valuable. I try and accept any suffering God allows, and I hope I am prepared to suffer deeply again if that is what God asks. I know I have to offer up sacrifices of my own making. I share all this with my children. But I no longer teach them that everything other than suffering is worthless.

God is not only found in pain. His love can be found in laughter and smiles and hugs. His beauty is reflected in the good things of this world. His joy can be discovered in all the extraordinary ordinary things of this life. There is the sorrow of the Passion, but there is also the hope and joy of the Resurrection. We can't have one without the other. We need to know both.

We often say such things as, "It was worth all the pain." Perhaps it is only because of joy, we are able to bear suffering.
I think of the day we brought Sophie home after her birth. As I walked through the front door with her in my arms, all the children cheered. On the wall was a homemade banner saying, “Welcome home Sophie!” It wasn’t until they saw their little sister, that they could believe she was going to join our family. We hugged. We laughed. We loved. We felt God in all His goodness. It was a moment of joy, not suffering. It was an important moment, a valuable moment. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
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  1. This is so profound, Sue. Suffering without hope would be completely joyless, I imagine. There's different types of suffering, too, isn't there? And different souls cope differently. I imagine that joy is more important to a child's wellbeing than suffering. And I also can't imagine that anyone could live with intense grief forever. Would you eventually lose faith in a loving God, do you think?

    This is another great post, Sue - there's lots to think about.

    Thank you for sharing:-)
    God bless:-)

    1. Vicky,

      I struggled all day with this post, trying to find the right words. I really wanted to express something I've been musing about but I couldn't seem to do it. I pressed 'publish' wondering if I'd even got close to saying what I wanted. And then I read your comment and discover you understand!! I am so glad.

      Yes, I think we need both joy and suffering. Joy can teach us so much about God. I think about the distorted view my children might have had of God if joy had not returned to our lives.

      I am still thinking!

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      God bless!

  2. Wow, Sue! Great post! Offering God our suffering has great value but so does offering him our joy. In truth, I'm not good at "suffering" I toss it and myself right into God's hands (and the saints) when it happens because I am a wimp and need TONS of grace for it :) As for suffering with joy - for me I tend to think of this more as God transforming our suffering INTO joy. Which He always does. We see some of the fruits of this "transformation" here and some later in heaven. I remember a homily once given by a priest in which he stated,"Let us remember ALSO to focus on Christ resurrected and not only on the cross."

    No doubt we all have crosses and have to bear them...but not alone. The purpose of these crosses are to transform us. I guess the key is to give God everything, whether it is joy, sorrow, work, laughter, etc...

    There is so much to think about in this post. I offer up the sufferings I can't get rid of because I know He is using them for a good purpose and I give Him my joys very gratefully too.

    I am still thinking too :)

    1. Mary,

      I think you are quite right about God transforming our sufferings into joy. I just never got to that stage. I was happy to suffer for God out of love. I accepted the suffering but to live like that forever? I don't think that is what God intended for me which is just as well as I'm not a good sufferer! I guess I am too little to be a victim soul and also as a mother, I have a different role in life.

      Yes, we all have our crosses. The problem with suffering is that it feels we are bearing them alone even though we know, or try to keep believing, God is there helping us. Offering joy is so much easier and so maybe that is why I felt it wasn't worth much.

      We are always hearing about the value of suffering. It is good to know our joys are worthy offerings too. Maybe our lives would be very unbalanced if we were to know only one or the other.

      Thank you for your thoughts, Mary!

  3. That priest was very wise and what he said so true. He is a rarity.

    God does not want us to endure this life; but to enjoy it. Sometimes, suffering comes our way because God allows it. Why? We don't know; but it serves His purpose somehow.

    Sue, you have suffered a lot in life; more than most. But your courage and strong Faith have seen you through; and your suffering has served as an example and a great help to many others reading what your write.

    You're an inspiration and a sign of great Faith for others to emulate.

    Vicky is right. Living with intense grief for ever would make one lose Faith. But God would not allow us grief more than we can handle.

    Thank you Sue for yet another brilliant post.

    God bless.

    1. Victor,

      I am sure that we all suffer, but in different ways. I often think I have got off lightly when I hear of other peoples' sufferings. It could be that our sufferings are tailor made and we prefer the ones we have been given to the ones we hear about. This is just as well as I do believe our sufferings are used to bring us closer to God and make us holy. And maybe that is why God allows them.

      "God does not want us to endure this life; but to enjoy it." If life was enjoyable from one end to the other we could become selfish and self-centred. At the same time, I think you are right: We should take the time to appreciate all the blessings that are showered upon us and enjoy. They give us strength and hope to get through the tough times.

      "Living with intense grief for ever would make one lose Faith." Yes. It would take a very special soul to endure such sufferings without losing faith. I think that Vicky is right when she says "different souls cope differently."

      I wonder if other bereaved parents lose their confidence and wonder if they'll ever feel joy again, and even if continuing to suffer is God's intention for them because of its great worth. Maybe this is why I started musing and decided to share this post.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Victor. I appreciate your support.

      God bless!


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