In modern America, pain is bad and must be escaped. Treat yourself. Numb the pain. Take a pill. We do all these things to rid ourselves of any discomfort. Have a headache? Take some medicine— it’s quicker than trying to rehydrate. Work is too demanding, so why not use your bonus money to treat yourself to something nice? You can always save your pennies later. Your college boyfriend dumped you? Numb the pain by eating a tub of ice cream. A family member mistreats you? Cut them out of your life. You’re better off without them. If there’s a solution to almost every sort pain out there, then why are people so miserable and fall so easily into despair?
Father Jacob Powell has written a very helpful guide to suffering in The Saving Power of Suffering. Broken into three parts, the book offers readers hope when faced with anguish.
- “Seeing it God’s Way” Readers learn how individual sufferings can benefit their souls and the souls of others. We can offer up our suffering for others and ourselves.
- “ Our Tools to Transform Suffering” We are reminded of the tools Jesus gave us to transform our suffering into something beautiful to offer God.
- “Our Examples: Mary and the Saints” Readers learn of the great suffering Mary and many of the saints experienced. Their suffering did not make them bitter, but drew them closer to Jesus.
We cannot escape pain and suffering. We have all heard the question, “If God is all good, then why is there so much suffering?” Naturally, we ask this question because we are mortal and see things with human eyes. God, the creator, has perfect vision and sees suffering through divine eyes . We suffer because human beings are sinners. Suffering is ultimately a consequence of sin, although the person suffering is not always the one who is guilty. God is not always trying to punish us, although sometimes suffering can be punishment. But God always does love us and wants salvation for us. Suffering is often the method God uses to draw his people close. God never abandons us—when we are crying out in agony, he is right there. Consider a sculptor chiseling away at the stone. Only he sees the masterpiece hidden within.
While reading this book, I couldn’t help but ponder my sufferings and the sufferings of my loved ones. So many times, I have found myself asking why. As a cradle Catholic, I was taught to “offer it up,” but I won’t deny the fact that I bought into the “pain is always bad” mentality. Reading this book brought me a sense of hope when faced with pain. In fact, I wish I had read it many years ago when I was diagnosed with depression.
Father Powell’s book on suffering is well worth the read, especially for Catholics who want to draw closer to Jesus. However, some may not be too enthusiastic about reading a book on embracing suffering—especially if they are going through something quite difficult. For those who have ongoing suffering such as chronic pain or mental illness, this book can be quite helpful in seeing your cross through God’s eyes.