It’s easy to be discouraged when ill, but St. John Paul II believed there was a better way to deal with sickness.
When suffering from an illness, it’s relatively easy to be pessimistic about it. Our whole world can appear to be crashing down and we can’t do anything about it.
However, our suffering can have great meaning when given to Jesus Christ.
St. John Paul II urged the sick not to give-in to pessimism in a letter for the 2nd annual World Day of the Sick.
Dear people who are ill: sustained by faith, face evil in all its forms without becoming discouraged and yielding to pessimism. Take the opportunity opened up by Christ to transform your situation into an expression of grace and love. Then your pain, too, will become salvific and contribute to completing the suffering of Christ for the benefit of his Body which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24).
Suffering is elevated when it is united to the suffering of Jesus Christ, who bore the weight of the world on his shoulders out of love for us.
“Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man find true light”. In Christ even pain is taken up into the mystery of infinite charity, which radiates out from God the Trinity and becomes an expression of love and instrument of redemption — that is, it becomes salvific pain.
A perfect revelation of the salvific value of pain is the passion of the Lord: “In the cross of Christ not only has redemption been fulfilled through suffering, but suffering itself has also been redeemed.” Christ “opened his suffering to man,” and in him man rediscovers his sufferings “enriched with a new content and a new meaning.“
Viewed in this light and united to Jesus Christ, our suffering is easier to bear and we think less negatively and more positively.
Suffering will often be a mystery to us, but the good news is that we don’t have to suffer alone. God is there at our side and can help us see the joy in the midst of the sorrow.