As I see it there are three types of suffering that we are subjected too. Of course these three types have their own sub-genera’s.
The first kind of suffering would be the kind of suffering martyrs and persecuted Christians undergo. That would be the noble suffering for our faith and for our belief in Christ, and our desire as believers to spread the gospel, God’s love, to every corner of the globe. Some of that suffering is overt; death/executions, imprisonment, overt discrimination. This is less of a problem in the Western Hemisphere but still does exist in our world.
There is a more subtle kind of discrimination that is perpetrated in the name of a diabolical misunderstanding of the concept of separation of church and state in the U.S.A. Those perpetrators are sometimes referred to with the euphemism, secular progressives. The real danger of the total excision of God from society is that without God there is no love. What would still exist is a perversion that could not even remotely be considered love. Destroying life is not love but a perversion of love. It is a displaced and misplaced, (a false), compassion although it feels real to those who promote it. No God = no love.
The first kind of suffering leads directly to God, (love), because of the cooperation with the graces poured out on us by God, our cooperation with the suffering and graces that are poured out on us by God.
The second kind of suffering would be the kind of day-to-day suffering that we all endure to different degrees depending of where we live and our culture, be it finding food and shelter, (our daily bread), or wondering and struggling to pay bills etc. job security and ability or inability to satisfy our physical debts. This kind of suffering can rely heavily on where you are, (1st world, 2nd world, and 3rd world). This suffering would include sickness and disease whether it is physical or mental in us and/or in loved ones. As one of the many sub-genres in this kind of suffering I would also include those people who are lost, people who either never had God in their lives or have expelled God from their lives. To fill that void left in them they search for fulfillment in other things, material or sensual things. The search is for something that is already there but being ignored or run from. (As the Psalms say where can we run too to escape God?)
This second kind of suffering is a bit trickier. Yes God is present and all of the graces of God, the graces poured out on all of us, are present. Like the first type of suffering we must cooperate with those graces that have been freely given to us by God. Is it possible that accepting martyrdom is a tad easier than everyday suffering? Of course I have absolutely no proof of this, and it would be just as easy to reject God in both suffering situations but martyrdom would end daily suffering. The grind of continues daily suffering without the cooperation with God’s love and grace could lead to subtle despair. I believe that despair too comes in degrees but they all lead to hell.
The lack of knowledge of God and God’s love for those that recognize that there is a void in their lives that they have not been able to fill with things or power or sex or drugs can also lead to despair. It does not have too. Breathtaking knowledge or a realization that nothing ‘they’ try has fulfilled them leads them to ask themselves, what’s next. A slippery slope of more excesses, more power more things more sex more drugs. Sadly they find less fulfillment and search for more substitutes for God. Unfortunately that leads to both spiritual and physical death…
Conversely the realization that the promise of fulfillment and meaning in life are not reached by the embrace of; things, power, sex or drugs, can very often lead to cooperation with God and the graces that God gives all of us. Saint Augustine of Hippo is a great example, as is Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
The last kind of suffering is a little trickier to parse. It is in no way sanctioned by God. If we are to look at the suffering Jesus endured in the passion we can see that two particular kinds of suffering emerge. There of course is the religious aspect of Christ’s suffering. The suffering of all martyrs stems from this. It can be labeled noble suffering because it is suffering for God, suffering for the gospel of love. That suffering for Christ was born of his clash with the holders of religious powers at the time the Pharisees. The Pharisees had a very different idea of the coming messiah. Jesus, who in nature is both true God and true man, rubbed the religious leaders the wrong way because he contradicted their understanding of God and what God wants and requires of men and women. Since the Pharisees were living under the false notion of God and what God wants, and since they embraced the delusion that they were in control of the theological realm and belief system of all the Jews of the time, they hated Jesus. Because of that hatred, hardness of heart, and their unwillingness to give up the power that they mistakenly believed they had, they plotted his downfall. It is fair to say that a part of Jesus’ suffering was because of his theology and the gospel of love that he preached minimizing the Pharisees rely on outward displays. His life was an emphatic statement that what really mattered was on the inside.
The other part of Jesus’ suffering was brutal, abusive suffering. This suffering was at the hands of the political power at the time, the Romans. The Roman power structure did not care at all about Christ’s religious teachings, beliefs or convictions. What they were concerned with was keeping order throughout their empire. The religious leaders convinced the political leaders that Jesus was making trouble and blurred the line between what a king for the kingdom was versus a political king. The brutal, abusive suffering that Jesus endured was instigated by the religious leaders but carried out by the political leaders. Thus the suffering had a duality even if Christ himself did not. Just like the two natures of Jesus can not be separated the effect of the two natures of this torture can not be separated. Because of the passion Christ died.
We know that Jesus came to make all things new. The original sin that made heaven close to us was rectified by Christ. Heaven was once again open to us. He made it new. It is not a giant leap to say that the abuse that Jesus suffered for all of us, the torture was endured so that we will not have to accept it ourselves. The abuse we suffer that is not because of our belief in God or for adhering to the tenants of our faith and incorporating them into our lives and in doing that trying to spread the gospel to the four corners of the earth, is abuse that Jesus made new. Because he made it new, abuse, we do not have to suffer it.
Sexual, emotional, physical abuse, the abuse of power that people have over us, is not something that God wants us to endure. God does not want us to stay in those kinds of abusive situations and relationships. Jesus already did that for us. He made all things new. As an example; the advice given to a woman to stay in her abusive relationship with her husband is bad advice. I have a difficult time reconciling God’s love for us with that advice. It is important to recognize that God does not cause the abuse. And with the cooperation of God’s graces poured out on us that kind of unholy abuse can be used by God for our spiritual benefit. We have to remember that this type of abuse is anathema to our God, a God of love.
This abuse suffered by creatures made in the image and likeness of God can be ‘soul murdering’ and can lead to a tragic and diabolical misunderstanding of God, blaming God, and to the extreme, a hatred of God. Those thoughts and feelings are the devil attacking a tragedy done to us. The weakness we experience after abuse is a prime target for the evil one. Truth be known satanic influences, (and ones own ability to exercise free will), are what causes abuse in the first place.
(Hopefully I haven’t got this wrong or gone against the beliefs of the Church in concluding that all suffering we are subject to is not created equal. But no matter the type of suffering we are made to endure it can be used by God for our own benefit.)