Fr. Roy Cimagala
IT may be worthwhile to go through some verses in the first letter of St. Peter that describe to us how the Christian attitude should be toward suffering, especially a suffering that would appear to us as unjust.
This unjust suffering is becoming common as the world is getting more and more complicated. We can suffer unjustly because of some rash judgments people can make, or because of exaggerated attachments to political opinions and social trends, or because of racial and even mere regional discrimination.
We can suffer unjustly because of family problems that we cannot avoid and we are forced to resolve, like lingering and expensive sicknesses, drug addiction on the part of some family members, marital crises of relatives, bankruptcy, etc.
We can suffer unjustly out of sheer malice of others, perhaps driven by envy, greed, lust for power, etc. This is not to mention the growing instances of suffering due to natural calamities and disasters for which we cannot pin down anybody as responsible as well as those errors for which we are truly guilty.
We have to be ready for these situations, and these verses from St. Peter’s first letter spell out for us how to be so. They are in the second chapter, and they go as follows (19-25):
“For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval.
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin. No guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten, but he trusted him who judges justly.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
I believe it’s truly worthwhile to reflect on these words slowly and repeatedly, so we can have clear ideas why it’s also worthwhile when instances of unjust suffering come to us. We can find meaning, and even joy and peace, when these occasions occur.
Engraving these words in our mind and heart would help us avoid sinking into doubts, useless lamentations and despair. It would even put us in a better condition to resolve matters if they still can be humanly resolvable.
We can still live charity in our relation with everybody else, especially those who cause us trouble. In fact, it can resemble us more closely to Christ who said: “Do not resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Mt 5,39)
To be able to do so can only indicate that one is not anymore acting on his own powers alone but is already infused and guided by God’s grace. There is no way our human powers can tackle this challenge without the aid of grace.
We have to learn to be merciful, to be magnanimous and understanding. We have to learn to answer evil with goodness, or as one saint would put it, to drown evil with an abundance of good.
Resentment and grudges should have no place in our heart.
A person who is truly a man of God would have no enemies, because everyone would be an object of his love. He prefers to suffer when mistreated, and that suffering becomes the very expression of his love.
It’s a love that goes above the standards and criteria of human justice. It’s a love that is pegged on a higher plane, the supernatural plane of God’s boundless love. It’s a love that as St. Paul would put it: “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13,7)
For this kind of love to come to us, we obviously need to pray for God’s grace, and continuously train ourselves—our thoughts, memory, imagination, feelings, etc.—to conform to these divine standards of love. We obviously need to discipline ourselves, detach ourselves from our personal preferences in the manner that Christ himself indicated: “deny yourself, carry the cross and follow Me.” (Mt 16, 24)
This is the way to behave when we are made to suffer unjustly.