Charlie's Blog: How To Suffer Well


How To Suffer Well

Paul said to the centurion, and to the soldiers: Except these stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.

The story of Saint Paul's voyage and shipwreck in Acts 27 is an interesting one. If you read the Acts of the Apostles, you will realize that Paul took a lot of beatings along the way in his life. From the time of his experience and conversion on the Damascus road, Saint Paul was on the path of suffering. The new life in Christ was not an easy one. But Paul's example especially in the shipwreck show us that it is possible to suffer well.

There are two ways that you can suffer. You can suffer poorly, or you can suffer well. The difference is what happens to us internally during our trials. This is why God allows our suffering. He tries our souls in order to perfect them. Our sufferings are tests. We should strive to pass these tests. Here are some tips for passing the tests.

1. Recognize the inevitability of suffering.

Suffering in this life is not optional. There is not a suffering and non-suffering section when it comes to life in the temporal realm. Everyone suffers. Some suffer more than others, but even those who suffer the least externally often suffer the most internally. No one has a painless life except unbelievers who are granted some mercy for a time before their eternal damnation.

Our Lord suffered. No servant is above his master, so it makes sense that we should suffer, too. Some Protestant heretics will make the claim that the Christian life is one of endless blessings and bliss, but these people have never read or they choose not to remember what our Lord said in John's gospel:
These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world. 
Because of these Protestant heretics, believers will mistakenly conclude that their suffering is the consequence of something they have done wrong. What did Job do to deserve the calamities he endured? What did St. Peter and St. Paul do to deserve their beatings and executions? What did the centuries of saints do to deserve their strife, tortures, griefs, imprisonments, and martyrdoms? The simple fact is that if you are not suffering then you are probably doing something wrong.

2. Trust the plan.

When the hard times hit, the Devil will whisper in your ear all sorts of errors and blasphemies. Satan will tell you two things. God doesn't exist. If He does exist, He clearly doesn't know what He is doing. But God does exist, and He knows what He is doing.

We don't know the plan, and we don't need to know the plan. God lets you know what you need to know. Because His plans and His ways are often inscrutable to us, we're not going to comprehend it. Does a general consult with the foot soldiers about his strategies? Of course not. They just need to carry out their orders to the best of their abilities.

God's plans do not fail. We are the ones who fail. Even if we fail, God will not fail. When we fail to trust the plan, we tell God two things. I don't trust you, and I can do a better job of it than you. But we know these things are ludicrous.

Trusting the plan is known as abandonment to divine providence. The great Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote a great book with that title. You can also read Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence for a shorter version of the same idea. These writings will bring you great comfort in trials and help you trust God's plan when it looks like absolute chaos from where you are sitting.

3. Quitting is not an option.

The temptation in any and every trial is to abandon the faith. People have grown accustomed to quitting their jobs and even quitting their marriages. Therefore, quitting God becomes an option especially in those times when you are suffering, and God doesn't seem to be there for us. We like to think that we are not quitters, but this is what Saint Peter thought before that cock crowed. Let's not have hubris on these matters. If a saint who had witnessed countless miracles including the Transifiguration can turn tail and run, we should not think we are better than this.

You should make a resolution in your brain that it is either God or nothing. Quitting is not an option. Then, we need to ask for strength in prayer to endure and persevere in our trials. Perseverance is not a natural trait but a supernatural trait. Saint Peter would go on to persevere to the thing he feared--his own martyrdom.

If you believe that quitting is an option, you will take it inevitably. This is what trials reveal. It shows the reservations we have made in our commitments. This mental reservation is called "double mindedness" This is what the Bible has to say about double mindedness:
A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways. 
To be double minded is to make oneself a monument of instability. You can never make a full commitment or follow through. You can't keep your eyes on the prize if you have one eye on the exit door.

But if you take that quitting option off the table, your life will go much better no matter what comes your way. You will become more stable and firm. You will have greater peace in your life. You will become like a rock in the ocean that is pounded by the surf but does not move.

4. Keep praying, keep working, and keep the faith.

When you're going through a trial and you know quitting is not an option, you are left wondering what you should do. We think we need to do something heroic or different to try and change our circumstances or to fix the world. But sometimes, the only heroic thing you can do is to put on your work boots each day and just do your job.

When the tough times come, keep praying. Never let your rosary go idle. If anything, you should double down on your prayers. Then, keep the faith and keep working. That's it. We doubt the things we were doing before because they must not be working for such calamities to strike. But you weren't doing anything wrong. If it is the right thing to do in the pleasant times, it is still the right to do in the troubled times.

Prayer is what carries us through our troubles. This is why Jesus prayed so earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane before they came and took Him. The others were lax in their prayers unable to watch for a single hour. Naturally, they hit the exit when their Messiah was led away to be tried and crucified. Jesus said that the devil sought to sift them like wheat, and the devil did.

The goal of the devil is to strip the faith from your soul. After this, your soul can be stripped from your body and plunged into eternal damnation. The only thing you have to do to prevent this is to not quit. Just keep praying, keep working, and keep believing.


Times of trial and suffering are going to come. Do not think they won't. God allows these things to test and strengthen your soul. Saint Paul endured many trials as an apostle of Jesus Christ. His life would end with his beheading. And you better believe that Paul still held true to the faith that began on that Damascus road. Once he saw the Risen Christ, quitting was not an option. He held on to the end and received the prize that belongs to all martyrs. You can do the same. We suffer well when we choose not to quit.