The Lord Jesus is long-suffering, but most of us are not. The Lord Jesus suffered on the cross for us, but we often complain about and resist any amount and type of suffering. The Lord Jesus accepted the will of His Father in heaven, but we sometimes question God for allowing us to suffer.
Unlike Job, few of us accept even our most minor sufferings. Yet as Christians we are called to become like Jesus Christ. And so we must learn to accept our suffering with the humility of the Lord Jesus, who prayed on the Cross: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
Before he died on the Cross, the Lord Jesus instructed the Apostles to pray similar words in the prayer they handed down to us: “Thy will be done.” Even though we may have prayed the Our Father uncountable times, we still may find it difficult to accept the will of God, who allows suffering to occur for our benefit.
Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout (EWTN Publishing) collects six short writings from the 1970s that emerged from the saintly nun’s prayer in the presence of the Lord Jesus while in Adoration at the monastery she founded in Hanceville, Alabama.
Together, these works instruct us in the art of Christian suffering so that despite the difficulties we encounter we can experience the peace of Christ in our hearts and “radiate Jesus” in our lives.
Mother Angelica (1923-2016), the founder of a global television network (EWTN) and monasteries, understood suffering from a personal perspective.
She was a child of divorce, when divorce was still scandalous. She grew up poor and suffered what was diagnosed as a nervous condition and later stomach problems. Her mother suffered from depression. Mother Angelica spent the last fifteen years of her life suffering from paralysis, the result of a stroke.
Yet On Suffering and Burnout is not a book about Mother Angelica’s experience of suffering. It is instead a book that offers us instruction and guidance harvested from her meditation on Scripture, wisdom that must have helped her to understand her past suffering and given her the courage and humility to accept the suffering she endured in the last year’s of her life, suffering she called “purification.”
One of the first things we have to understand is that God chooses the cross we will bear. We also have to understand its purpose. “We cannot choose a cross,” Mother Angelic says. We must give up our desire to control and instead trust God who knows the type of suffering we need to change.
What we often do not realize is that God shapes and heals us through our suffering:
“His love extends to every cross, every joy, every moment of our existence. There is nothing that escapes His Eye, and He permits nothing to happen to us that does not have some hidden good within it.”
Unless we learn to accept suffering, we may waste an opportunity to change as God wishes.
To help us understand the different types of suffering, Mother Angelica considers the lives of David, Peter, Paul, and other biblical figures.
David, for example, endured Repentant Suffering for his sins of adultery and murder. His great Psalm 50/51 (Septuagint/Masoretic numbering) reveals David’s sense of loss, his deep suffering, for committing sins that harmed himself, his community, and God.
In this psalm, David also expresses his realization that God is pleased with his sacrifice of suffering:
“How many of us understand this profound truth: the suffering heart, broken over its infidelities, broken out of love for so great and good a God, is a sacrifice that rises to Heaven and is accepted by God more than many good works. The Suffering of Repentance washes us clean, changes our heart, determines a new course, and humbles us before the Lord.”
Corrective Suffering taught Paul to be obedient to God. His offering of his suffering to God for others is a form of Redemptive Suffering. Mother Angelica writes:
“Great sinners throughout the world would look to Paul for courage and strength. Yet, the suffering and humiliation Paul endured was Redemptive for it freed sinners of fear and made them look to God for mercy.”
The burnout Mother Angelica means is dryness in prayer. But it too is necessary. It too is one of God’s tools. It is a gift. Through dryness God purifies us, changes us, sculpts us, calls us to higher prayer, “chisels away those inner failings too hidden for us to see.”
Along with the good medicine of her words, Mother Angelica offer the reader a healthy selection biblical quotations for meditation, quotations that motivate us to endure. Among them:
“Do not give up if trials come, and keep on praying” (Rom. 12:21).
“Everything will soon come to an end, so, to pray better, keep a calm and sober mind” (1 Pet 4:7).
“Then he told them a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart” (Lk. 18:1).
A real Christian, Mother Angelica tells us, “lives in an atmosphere of prayer.” A Christian, she tells us, “is a realist who fears neither suffering, pain, nor persecution, for he endures nothing alone.”
Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout will inspire you to live as a real Christian and realist.