"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Romans 5: 3-5)
In his apostolic letter on suffering, Saint Pope John Paul points out that Jesus Christ, by His own suffering and death as our Redeemer, has conquered suffering in our lives. His own love -- the love of God for us -- has given an answer to the question "Why?" that no one could ever have imagined on his own. Christ's victory over suffering, indeed over death itself, gives us hope, it lights a fire in the midst of darkness, it promises eternal life. Perhaps this promise John Paul makes seems like a platitude to some. But Jesus not only suffered, He suffered in innocence. He, in His own Body, answered the often repeated "Why?" about the good suffering when they don't deserve it.
There is no platitude here. Jesus deserves to be believed because He has gone through suffering in a way more profound than we could ever know. And Jesus has gone so far as to invite us to join Him in suffering on behalf of others. Remember how He said, "Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me," or "Take up your cross and follow in my footsteps." It is true, as the spiritual masters point out, that suffering with courage, in faith, holds within it a power to unite us interiorly with Christ in a most intimate manner. I am convinced this is why so often we come upon people who hunger for the eucharistic Christ so intensely, or even for some simple sacramental as a reminder of the Lord.
This is the art of suffering well -- with faith in Christ and with courage that embraces God's will and His love for us. God himself is the Artist of this grace in the life of the believer. When suffering lurks just out of sight, when fear presses hard upon us, when the heart is weighed down with burdens that no one should have to bear, then there is no one who can answer the question "Why?" except Jesus Christ himself, the Suffering One, the Risen One.