Don’t waste your sufferings, offer them up. What does it mean to offer up our suffering?
Teresa of Avila, in her book The Way of Perfection writes:
"Everything I have advised you about… is directed toward the complete gift of ourselves to the Creator, the surrender of our wills to His, and detachment from creatures…For we are preparing ourselves that we may quickly reach the end of our journey and drink the living water from the fount."
This complete gift of self to God, the offering of our whole being means to offer up our thanksgiving, joy, prayer, work, and our suffering. By offering up these things we make the complete gift of ourselves to God and in return He floods us with His divine life. Now, when it comes to offering up suffering, there are ultimately two options:
Offer it up, that is, Give yourself to God in trust and love.
Turn away from God in anger, and despair, and search for an escape route through alcohol, pain meds, porn or simply a life of distraction.
Well, I know where door number two leads so then I choose what’s behind door number one – offer it up – offer yourself to God in trust which is an act of love. Mary gave herself to God to do His will at the Annunciation, she gave her consent: I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word. Mary gave herself in an even greater way at the Cross, when she had the choice to either,
Turn away from God, rebel against His will in anger or despair.
Accept the will of God, trust Him and consent to what He was doing through the death of Jesus her Son, and by this consent she gave herself totally to God.
Love is a gift of self to another person to do what is good or pleasing for them. Love is total when it is an unconditional gift of self. We say, “God I give myself to you, I consent to your will unconditionally, no matter what!”
But this is gift is really a partial gift when everything goes our way, because in our fallen human nature, inclined to self-centeredness, we love God for what He gives us – like a sugar daddy.
However, this gift of self to God is greater when we get nothing in return; and the gift of self to God is greatest, it is total when we give ourselves in suffering – because then it is pure gift with no self-interest. Suffering is the most effective way to elicit a total gift of self to God. This in turn empties us to receive God’s total gift of Himself to us to Divinize us! Why is suffering so important? Suffering is not evil. Evil is the lack of a good thing. Blindness is evil because the person lacks the good of sight. Suffering is the human response to the absence of a good we should have – like sight. To offer up suffering means we are giving God our goods one by one, letting them go. We give Him every good we possess and that hurts. As we are letting go of good things we are directing them and ourselves to God. In return God gives everything back with the gift of Himself. As Teresa of Avila said, the unconditional surrender or gift of self to God is the whole deal. Suffering brings it out in the most complete way. So our response to suffering is to offer it up. And the IT is yourself. Its not what you got, but what you give, that matters, only what you give. Offer it up – give yourself totally to God especially in suffering! The suffering of Jesus was powerful not because of the suffering itself but because it was a total gift of self, total unconditional love of the Son for God the Father.
"Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done."
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
God does not seek bulls and goats but man; man’s unqualified “yes” to God could alone form true worship. Everything belongs to God, but to man is lent the freedom to say yes or no, the freedom to love or to reject; loves free “yes” is the only thing for which God must wait…p. 217
Christian sacrifice does not consist in giving God what He would not have without us but in our becoming totally receptive, letting ourselves be completely taken over by him. Letting God act on us – that is Christian sacrifice. P. 215 The unqualified Yes of Jesus – to the very end, to His death is what saves us. Jesus invites us to help him save souls by our unqualified yes in suffering.
St. Paul understood that Jesus invites all people to help him save souls through offering up suffering. Colossians 1:24, “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now, and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church.” Literally – all that is lacking from the sufferings of Christ. What could be lacking? Our participation! Jesus is inviting us to help him save souls. Our unqualified “Yes” to God is what we are to offer up. Jesus said to St. Faustina: “I am giving you a share in the redemption of mankind.” Diary 310 Jesus also told her, “I need your suffering to rescue sinners.” (Diary 1612) Diary 1645 March 25, 1938, Faustina writes:
“Today, I saw the suffering Lord Jesus. He leaned down toward me and whispered softly, My daughter, help Me to save sinners. Suddenly, a burning desire to save souls entered my soul. When I recovered my senses, I knew just how I was to help souls, and I prepared myself for greater sufferings.” Its not what you got, only what you give. Give yourself totally to God, offer up your thanksgiving, prayer, work, joy and your suffering. Don’t waste it. Offer it up, Give yourself to God, give Him your unqualified Yes! Help Jesus save souls.