On Suffering – A Lenten Reflection, Part 1

I was reading a devotional recently that talked about suffering. It discussed the temptation we fall into of asking “Why me?” Instead, the devotional asked, “why not me?”

The question struck me because I had never thought of it that way. Why not me? Why can’t I carry the cross of infertility? Why can’t I be the one who is an example to others?

The question haunted me for quite some time and I thought of it often in prayer. What good reason did I have for not walking the road of infertility? Why, because I wanted things to be nice and easier? Were any of these reasons really good reasons? I know that through difficulty I would grow but it’s so comfortable not to, so comfortable to not learn to trust completely.  When we may feel betrayed by God we should pray to change our cry from “Why me?” to ‘Why not me?”  Our suffering makes us more human, better able to relate, and help and minister to others.  There is a level of compassion that can only be achieved when the suffering is shared, when we share in Christ’s cross.

In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” We answer this question in how we live our lives.  It’s a constant question we are asked and that we are answering sometimes without even realizing it but others are looking to us for that answer.  Others see Christ in the way we respond to our suffering.  How we carry our cross is an answer to Jesus’ question.

Pope John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris (The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) about situations that bear the sign of suffering and he cites the lack of offspring as one such situation. (paragraph 6).

One of the most common human responses to suffering is to question why, but as the Book of Job explains, suffering is a mystery for which our answers are insufficient and inadequate.  However, as Pope John Paul II explains in his letter, the answers in Scripture do not end with the Book of Job.  He makes reference to the “Gospel of Suffering” written by Christ.  Sometimes the suffering is a repeated fight with my own pride, which theologians say is the primary sin. Pride leads me to subtly buy into the idea of my right to a child.  I think sometimes it is because it is too painful for me to believe that God is truly saying no to our request. God is so loving that it is hard for me to understand the love that allows me to suffer so much. “Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering” (Salvifici Doloris 13). As St. John says, God is love, so only God can reveal the meaning of my suffering to me.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla said, “One cannot love without suffering or suffer without loving.” At times, it seems almost cruel to see so many people around me become pregnant. I can even understand why infertility leads some people away from their faith – but at those moments, I ask God for the grace to persevere, trust and love as He did amidst the suffering.