Michelle Neitzke

A Beautiful Offering: Choosing to Glorify God in Our Suffering

“Just get over it.”

Sadly we hear phrases such as these from our friends in answer to our suffering. I don’t think these are the words anyone wants to hear when they are suffering, having a bad day, or feeling down.

I love a lot of things about the Catholic Church, but one thing I really love is how the Catholic Church answers the question of suffering. We know it isn’t as easy as “just getting over it.”

We all know pain and suffering are part of life and we have all experienced it. But we are not asked to “just get over our suffering” we are asked to make our suffering a beautiful offering to God, this is what we call redemptive suffering. We choose to offer our suffering as a prayer to God.

The world offers a lot of expressions when it comes to dealing with pain (i.e what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, dust yourself off, just get over it, suffer through it.) These common expressions may be inspiring and helpful but they don’t offer the complete answer to dealing with our pain and sorrow.

The most convicting advice of how to cope with suffering came from a priest. He explained that there were only two ways to understand my suffering. This priest simply told me, “You can either choose to suffer with Christ or without him. Those are your only two options.”

Whoa.

It seemed too simple to be true.

I didn’t know this when I was in high school or in my early college years. I tried suffering too long without Christ. It didn’t work. My suffering become messy and painful. I tried to find comfort from the world to ease my pain but I was always left empty handed. As a teen, and even into college I didn’t know how to give my suffering to God. I dealt with the breakups, the stress of moving in the middle of high school, pressure from my peers and academic stress, all without Christ.

By the grace of God I began to learn that I had to choose to suffer for and with Christ rather than without him. That priest was right. Those were my only two options. If suffering is unavoidable, I wanted to experience that with the person who suffers with me. This is how our suffering becomes a beautiful offering to God, not because of the situation we are dealing with, but because we are choosing to suffer with grace and dignity. When we do this we place our trust in the providence of God, knowing that He has the power to bring grace and beauty out of anything, even our pain.

What’s at stake? It’s really simple – a crown of glory in heaven. You see… saints are the people that gave God their pain. Rather than deal with their pain in destructive ways (drugs, drinking, unhealthy relationships). They gave their suffering to God. They didn’t allow challenges to overcome them. Saints don’t “just get over it,” they give to God. They rise to the challenge, even in the pain.

We can do this too. It’s a choice. Just like that priest told me. It’s the question we all have to ask our self, will I suffer with Christ or without him? I know one of these choices will make me a saint, the other will not.

When we give our pain to Christ, we are opening ourselves up to grace. We giving God permission to be an instrument of healing and peace in our pain. Let’s be people who deal their suffering gracefully, not by reaching out to the comforts of the world but by reaching into the comforting arms of Christ.

This is a daily choice, we have to offer God small trials and big ones. Ask Him daily to be with you in your pain, discomfort, trials, and suffering. The choice is ours, will our suffering bring us closer to God, or further away?

Michelle Neitzke

About the Author

I am originally from the south but somehow found my way up to the northern tundra (aka Saint Paul, Minnesota) where I live and also work for an amazing parish in the Archdiocese. I love good humor, fall weather, black olives, tea, studying theology, bodies of water, Chick-fil-a, bookstores, and great company. I love sharing my faith with others and I consider it an honor that I am able to participate in the Church’s mission of making the name of Jesus Christ known and loved. Follow me on Twitter @MichelleNeitzke