Good Friday and fortitude.

It is not easy, and sometimes it’s not possible, to think while we suffer that suffering is good for us.

In whatever way we suffer, be it by voluntarily giving something we like up for Lent, or involuntarily going through a breakup, or a job loss, or an illness, or a death, there will be discomfort. There might be pain and tears.

But accepting it is how we become more like Christ.

This is what Jesus teaches us about suffering.

We live in a culture that encourages us to avoid suffering at all costs, but we believe in a God who encourages us to embrace it, a God who sent His son to teach us how:

Jesus was condemned to death. He carried the cross. He fell on the way and the cross landed on top of Him. He saw his mother suffer because it hurt her to see him suffer. He humbly accepted the help of Simon, who helped him carry the cross. He had blood all over his face. He fell again. He stopped to comfort others while he walked the road he knew would lead to his death. He fell a third time. He had his clothes ripped off his body, his body nailed to a cross, and then he died. They took his body off the cross, and they put it in a tomb.

And we call this Good Friday.

How dare we?

Because of the rest of the story.

Because Christ’s pain and suffering results in salvation.

Because in his passion and death, he taught us fortitude.

“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.” -the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Imagine if instead, like we so often do, Christ had avoided suffering at all costs.

Imagine if like Christ, we chose to obey God and accept the pain instead of trying to escape it.

We learn that suffering is redemptive – it happens for a reason, and it ends well.

We begin to model fortitude like Jesus did.

We learn self control, and discipline.

We get better at resisting temptation.

We learn that God created us stronger than our culture tells us we are.

And ultimately, we become more like Christ.

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  • JC

    “We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.” (Spe Salvi)

    In this vale of tears, suffering can actually add new meaning to life. Thus, while suffering itself is bad, simply attempting to eliminate (as opposed to limiting and accepting) suffering will not work. Rather, a life spent trying to avoid suffering can succeed only in becoming a life which is empty of meaning. Just as pleasure and contentment are not the greatest goods, suffering is not the worst of evils.