Carina Cruz Benson
(Insights From My Conversations with Joshua O. Atiba, MD)
It is a fact of life that suffering is widespread and many people lose their faith because of being unable to find meaning in their painful and difficult circumstances. On the other hand, some people find meaning in their suffering and come to a steadfast faith. At the beginning of my mission journey, I had a very profound conversation with my mentor about why we suffer. The concept he introduced to me has become my mindset and has helped me as I face challenges moving forward with my mission.
GMC stands for gifts, mission and cross. Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, was gifted with the love of his father and with dreams and visions. For these, he suffered from the jealousy of his brothers to the point that they threw him in a pit and eventually sold him to slavery. He had the gift of discernment enabling him to interpret dreams that led him to be trusted by the Pharaoh of Egypt. He had a mission but he did not know fully until he became second in command to Pharaoh and became in charge of high-level decision-making that affected the economy of Egypt. It was the result of his wisdom that prospered Egypt such that he was able to help his people from Israel during severe drought and famine. Before he was able to fulfill his mission, he suffered tremendously and unjustly. He bore a heavy cross.
Jesus Christ, God’s own son suffered. He had gifts from being able to make the blind see and let the lame walk. He had the gift of making people rise from the dead. He had a mission and that was to save us from our sins that we may have eternal life. He bore the cross, was mutilated and suffered greatly for his mission. And so we suffer for our gifts and our mission and bear the cross as well.
Then comes the agony in the garden of Gethsemane when you start to flinch at the thought of suffering. Even Jesus asked God to take the cup away from him if possible. Is suffering for our gifts and mission carrying the cross a necessity? This is another hard question and some even ask, does God like to see His children suffer?
No one wants to suffer but it is in suffering that we get to experience the grace of God. When we kneel and pray in our suffering, God meets us and bestows us with strength we could not realize otherwise. There is a design in suffering such that our first hand experience makes us humble and allows us to relate better with the suffering of other people. It is in suffering that we come to grips about the fact that everything we have, that is, our gifts, mission and cross come from above. And at that point of realization we can either choose to honor God or curse Him.
St. Paul chronicled that three times he approached the Lord about the thorn on his side and three times God refused to remove it. He made the profound realization that it is in such weakness that God’s strength is made perfect. So it is in our suffering that we can receive God’s grace and God’s mercy. Suffering is the framework for perfecting God’s power and God’s grace and mercy in our lives. Suffering is the furnace for purifying iron, gold or silver.
Alyssa Ramirez, a young lady who perished in a 2015 flashflood in Texas summarizes suffering in one simple verse. “Faith does not grow in a garden of prosperity but in a desert of tribulation.”