Dr. Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor at Boston College, does an incredible job explaining how both God and Suffering can exist in this brief video. In just a few minutes, Dr. Kreeft successfully refutes many of the arguments that atheists often use when they claim that because there is suffering in our world, there can be no God.

Although this presentation is not the most exciting and energizing to watch, Dr. Kreeft makes some points about free will, having a standard of judgment, and ultimate justice that make it worth “suffering” through the entire thing.

I appreciated Dr.Kreeft’s philosophical approach,  but when dealing with my own suffering I prefer a more prayerful and reflective way of understanding why I have been called to suffering.

It is heartwarming to see all the Facebook status updates of people listing what they are thankful for and how they are #blessed, but what if you don’t feel like you have a lot to be thankful for? What if you are in the midst of a period of suffering?  Here is a prayerful reflection on finding a way to be thankful during your struggles.

A Prayerful Reflection on Suffering

To begin, find a place where you can be alone and free from distractions.  Bring with you a Bible, pen, paper, music, and the device on which you need to read this reflection.

Begin by slowly reading this verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Reflect – What circumstances are causing me to feel that I cannot be thankful? Why would God ask me to have a heart of thanksgiving?  

Are you experiencing an unbelievable amount of grief through a tragic illness or death? Are you anxious because you are still single or childless after years of wanting to have children? Are you are having difficulties in school or your career? Are you struggling with an addiction or sin that seems impossible to overcome? Or maybe you just don’t like the weather today, you don’t want to go home to be with your family, or  you just broke your iPhone.  Whatever your struggle is, God cares (Psalm 139).  He sent not only Christ to walk beside you (Matthew 28:20), but He provides His angels to watch over you (Psalm 91:11).

Bring to mind the circumstances you are facing, but this time as you play out the scene in your mind picture Jesus alongside of you and God’s angels surrounding you and protecting you.  Spend a few minutes to envision this.  You suffering, Jesus comforting.

Next, take a moment to look at Jesus and speak with Him.  Tell Him your concerns and your burdens (Psalm 55:22).  This is what He wants us to do.   Open your heart to His.  Ask for healing.  Ask for resolution.  Ask for strength to get through every moment of your trial.

Now just sit in silence for a few moments resting in the arms of a Savior who loves you so immensely that He came to earth to experience all the pain of this world and defeat it in order to bring everlasting peace to you.

Music may be helpful at this point of the reflection. (Blessed Be Your Name, Oceans, and Lord, I Need You are a few suggestions.) Allow the words to become your prayer. Read:

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

Reflect:  What qualities is your suffering producing in you?  List 3 aspects of your character that have grown because you are facing this battle. 

Next, begin a list of 10 things you are thankful for.  Even if you feel like you have nothing to be thankful for, you can start by simply listing that you are thankful that someone has taught you to read – in our world over 774 million people are illiterate.   Be thankful that you were able to read this reflection on a computer, phone or iPad because if you could afford one of those things you are probably earning more than the $2.50 a day that over half the world lives on. No matter how dire your situation is, you can find something to be thankful for.

When you are finished with your gratitude list, look it over again.  Offer a prayer of Thanksgiving to God for all that you have. 

One of the best ways to heal from and face our own suffering is to help others.  Is there someone you know who could benefit from you sharing about your struggles?  Is there a group of people you could offer services to?  If you listed some of your talents on your gratitude list, think about how those talents could be put to use for God.

Reflect: Write down the name of at least one person or organization that you could serve. Commit to doing this within the upcoming year. 

Close with this prayer written by St. Francis DeSales.

An Act of Abandonment

O my God, I thank you and I praise  
you for accomplishing your holy  
and all-lovable will without any regard for mine.  
With my whole heart,  
in spite of my heart,  
do I receive this cross I feared so much!  
 
It is the cross of Your choice,  
the cross of Your love.  
I venerate it;  
nor for anything in the world  
would I wish that it had not come,  
since You willed it.  
 
I keep it with gratitude and with joy,  
as I do everything that comes from Your hand;  
and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag,  
with all the respect  
and all the affection which Your works deserve.  
 
Amen.

For further reading, the Bible is overflowing with verses about suffering and how to get through it.  The Saints also provide us with countless examples of how to face our earthly trials.  This Thanksgiving shock your friends and family with a Facebook status that thanks God for your suffering.  In doing so, you begin to become like Christ.  Our suffering is united to His suffering on the cross Through all of your pain keep in mind that God has promised  in Revelations 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

 ‘When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.’St. Sebastian Valfre

If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ. 
–Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Suffering is a great grace; through suffering the soul becomes like the Saviour; in suffering love becomes crystallised; the greater the suffering, the purer the love. St. Faustina

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthinans 4:8

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.   Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:12-19