Recently I came down with the flu just like everyone else around me it seems. It had been years since I had been knocked down by this winter scourge. Finally after eight days into this minor trial I began to feel normal again, which was long enough to do some self reflection and learn a few things about myself.
I found that I am not as tough as I thought I was. I have been practicing asceticism over the past couple years in order to form my will to the Truth and rid myself of bankrupt attachments that have held me captive for most of my life. Figuring that this training would have prepared me to suffer well through a physical ailment like the flu…I was sadly mistaken.
I found that I quickly grasped at the comforts of media and bad food choices which coincidentally seemed to choke out my prayer life. My focus became inward as tunnel vision set in on all of the aches and pains I was experiencing and wishful thinking swirled in my head which hoped that it would just go away soon. I only looked forward to the next time that I could cover the suffering up with medicine.
This was not how I had envisioned myself enduring suffering since I had been steeped in the stories of heroic Saints like St. Maximilian Kolbe or Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I expected that I could accept a little suffering with a bit of courage, but that my friends is what we call pride.
I found that on my own, when I cut myself off from God’s loving reach and focus on myself, I quickly revert to my old attachments and wallow in self pity. It was a good lesson I suppose, definitely one that God allowed in order that I grow closer to Him.
St. Paul was no stranger to suffering and gives us the best account of how we are to endure it by participating in the suffering of Christ when trials come our way.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24)
It is here we see that the only thing lacking in the suffering of Christ is our participation in it. Suffering in this life is a given…don’t waste it.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)