Intent: For all who suffer from disease, affliction, violence, abuse, or oppression
We pray for all people who are enduring every kind of suffering and misery. We pray for God’s mercy so that He may relieve their suffering. We pray for God’s justice so that He will put an end to every kind of injustice that results in human suffering. We also pray that all people will have patience and an understanding of the value of Christian suffering.
Throughout history men have asked the age-old question, “Why does a loving and merciful God allow such suffering in our world?” Many have used this question (to which they assume has no good answer) as an excuse to avoid religion altogether. Often times, God puts a stumbling block in our path that may cause us some degree of suffering. God’s desire in doing this is for us to turn back to Him in humility and admit that we are totally dependent on Him. Yet, He never violates our free will and allows us to freely choose to turn to Him in our need, or to reject Him further. Other times, we suffer as a direct consequence of our own actions. Although God does not delight in this, he allows it to happen so that we will learn to correct our error, and to turn to Him in our need. Still other times, there are those inexplicable tragedies or acts of evil that cause immense suffering and death. Surely, these horrors can’t come from God, yet He allows them to happen. In these cases, perhaps God is calling us to realize that our short time here on earth as mortals is just a drop in the infinite ocean of eternity. We must remember that “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are in his possession experience it” (Wis 2:23-24). We are immortal beings—imperishable! This is an enormous truth to grasp! The book of Wisdom in the Bible (unfortunately not found in most Protestant Bibles) offers even more enlightenment on the subject:
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality. Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself (Wis 3:1-6).
The “foolish” are those who value this mortal life more than they value their eternal life. St. Paul compares this life to the next in his letter to the Romans: “I consider the sufferings of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). God’s justice is perfect. If we lead a just life, then whatever seeming injustices we have endured in this short life will be more than adequately made up for in the next, for all eternity!
Another important aspect of our suffering is that if we unite it with Christ’s suffering on the Cross, then our suffering becomes redemptive. We, the faithful, comprise the mystical body of Christ here on earth (see Col 1:18; 1 Cor 12:20-27; Eph 5:30; Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 6:15). When we suffer, Christ also suffers with us. We can offer up all of our sufferings to God in union with Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. We can offer this suffering up for the benefit of others, or for ourselves. St. Paul told the Colossians, “Even now I find my joy in the suffering I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the church” (Col 1:24).
Jesus himself did not want to suffer. We see this when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I” (Mt 26:39). It is only natural for us to want relief from our sufferings. God may indeed send us healing and strength, or He may decide to let us carry our cross a little while longer—for the greater good of His Kingdom. Thus, as Christians, we would do well to follow Our Lord’s example and endure whatever suffering comes our way with patience, love, charity, and humble resignation to the will of God. We should never lose hope as we pray for the coming of that glorious day at the end of time when God will create the new heavens and a new earth that will be “God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away” (Rev 21:3-4).