1. In God's plan suffering has a special mission. One might even call it a kind of apostolate. Suffering reminds us continually that we have not been made for this world, but are on a journey towards eternity. Here we have no permanent city, but we seek for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).
Suffering is a spur which lifts our gaze towards Heaven, our real home, in which we shall find a happiness which will have no end. It would be disastrous if there were no suffering in this world. It is the salt which preserves from corruptioin our poor, fallen nature, tainted by sin. When everything is going well and the passing pleasures of this life hold us fascinated, it is too easy to set our hearts on things below and ot forget God. But when our bodies are racked with pain and our minds are troubled and lonely, then an inward turmoil seems to detach us from this earth and causes us to raise our tear-filled eyes towards Heaven. Purified and almost renovated, our hearts turn towards God, our one, true and supreme good.
2. This is why the Saints loved suffering. Not only did they accept it with complete resignation, but they desired and requested it from God. "Either to suffer or to die," was the plea of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. St. Mary Magdalene del Pazzi even added: "To suffer and not to die." How well the Saints understood the mission which God has entrusted to suffering! If it is accepted with faith, resignation and love, it can make us loving images of Jesus, Who suffered beneath the weight of the Cross and died upon it, His hands and feet pierced with nails, His Head crowned with thorns, while He prayed for us and for all those who had crucified Him.
3. Suffering has a still further purpose. Besides learning the role of an apostolate in our own lives, it can also be an apostolate for others. We can offer our sufferings and sorrows to God, not only for our own spiritual advancement, but also for the expiation of the sins of the human rae, for our enemies, for the persecutors of the Church, and for all the other suffering members of the Mystical Body of Christ. In this way we can accomplish great good and can acquire great merit before God. As a result of our offering, who knows how many hearts hardened in sin, or how many souls forgetful of Heaven, may be touched by the grace of God? Let us suffer with Jesus. He alone can ease our pain and make it meritorious for ourselves and for others.