Why should we succumb to suffering? It can come in many ways. The pain caused by a broken leg. The suffering caused by a chronic illness, with no cure. The grief one feels when his true love breaks his heart. The sorrow caused when a loved one dies, removing him or her from his life until his own death. The pain caused by betrayal, especially when it is done by someone we thought we could trust. The sadness when a relative falls out with the family, severing that sacred bond between kin. It can even be the suffering that has no rational cause, such as a mental disorder, depression, or anxiety attack.
Why should we succumb to suffering? In the animal kingdom, suffering can be a matter of life and death. A sick or injured animal is the preferred prey of predators. It is for this reason, then, that many prey animals have learned to hide an injury, lest they fall victim to predation. This is no different with people. Visible suffering alerts others to a weakness, one that we would prefer to remain hidden. Some view its expression as a character flaw; as being “weak”, or not being “tough” enough. A weakness can leave one at risk of being taken advantage of, especially if it triggers an emotional response. It is for this reason that man sometimes mimics the animals and hides his suffering.
Why should we succumb to suffering? Suffering is stress, and continuous stress affects our health. Uncontrolled physical suffering can lead the body to exacerbate an injury, resulting in serious health repercussions. Even mental stress can alter body chemistry, resulting in malnutrition, high blood pressure, and even heart palpitations. Mental anguish can reduce your appetite, and it encourages the storage of excess fat. It can weaken muscles, and leave the brain in a state of imbalance, adding to the anguish.
Why should we succumb to suffering? Even our own immaterial soul is capable of pain, and is bombarded on all sides in this life. Demons in this world seek to weaken and confuse the soul, for nothing more than to bring pain and hurt. The world we live in is filled with wickedness, causing the soul to grow weary, and surrender hope. The suffering of the body and mind are in link with the soul, and can bombard it until the soul sees nothing but despair. The soul, our center, the part that makes you “you”, can only take so much suffering before it loses that essence of self. Too much suffering, and the soul doesn’t even want to go on.
So why succumb to suffering, when it seems so terrible?
We should submit to suffering because it is a sign of healing. Physical pain nearly always brings forth healing. It directs our attention to an injury, such as a broken leg. Without it, we would not know that something is wrong, and otherwise would go on walking on that broken leg, making it worse. Pain of the body not only heals, but makes things stronger; a broken bone is always stronger than before. To accept pain is to welcome healing, inviting it in to repair what is damaged. Without it, we remain broken.
We should submit to suffering because it can bring about a change for the better. Anguish caused by a personal tragedy or mental affliction turns us towards reflection, and to discern why we feel what we feel (for some, it is the only way we can reflect). We are challenged to ask ourselves “what is important?” and “Where am I going?” Sometimes, we just need to ask God “Why?” Times like these should bring us closer to God, and allow Him into ourselves. It is a time when our faith is tested, when we must stop trying to fix it ourselves, and let God in. This sort of suffering can bring about a change in ourselves, for the better, in ways that we would not have imagined otherwise.
We should submit to suffering, because Christ himself allowed it on his Sacred Body. He embraced emotional anguish in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing what was coming, sweating blood as He awaited His impending agony. Christ embraced the scourging, the heavy cross, and His crucifixion, on which He asked God “Why?” He was beaten physically, mentally, and spiritually, and bore it all, knowing He could call it off at any moment. He allowed the suffering, because by it, we were all saved. The suffering He endured cleansed us of our offenses. Christ was God, and even God knew how important suffering was, and how to use it to free us all.
Nowadays we are told to reject suffering. Many of us use alcohol, medication, or even psychology to numb the pain, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual. We look solely to remove the suffering, and thereby avoid its cause. Sometimes, we turn for answers in the wrong direction. We turn to anger, revenge, or addiction; things that may seem like escape from the pain, but only leads us further into it. Sometimes, our suffering drags us inwards, deeper into ourselves. We cut ourselves off from people, and enter a world of despair and hopelessness. We tell ourselves there is no happiness to be had, and that the true nature of reality is one of pain and suffering. Worst of all, we cut ourselves from God, convinced that He has forsaken us.
It is hard to justify suffering. In the end, no one can completely defend it. Reason tells us that only a fool, or a madman would purposefully submit to it. It seems even more irrational to believe that there is goodness to be had through it, a goodness that cannot come by any other way. But when we look at the Savior on the Cross, somehow, it makes sense. Only through faith can we understand the mystery of suffering, as Christ Himself understood it.