Over 23 years ago as I was finishing seminary and about to be ordained my spiritual director gave me some advice on seeking a new spiritual director in my diocese. “Look for some one who has suffered,” He said. At the time I wondered about this but have come to find that it was true.
Suffering brings a profound wisdom if it is endured with faith. I have also discovered this in my own life. As much as I have hated any suffering I have endured I have to admit it has brought gifts in strange packages. Through it I discovered gifts and strengths I did not know I had. Through it I experienced things I would have avoided. Through I learned to seek help and not depend so much on myself. Through it I became better equipped to help others in their struggles. Through suffering my faith grew and so did my compassion and generosity for others who have struggled.
The scriptures say that “A broken humbled heart the Lord will not scorn” (Ps 51). A few years ago my spiritual director shared a strange saying with me: Everything needs a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in.” Yes indeed, the light gets in through a broken heart, a heart with fissures or openings. Rarely does the light get in through a perfect wall, a perfect and strong barrier.
This is a painful truth to be sure and it makes me want to run. But in the end I have learned that it is true. God has done more with my brokenness than my strength. And, in a paradoxical way, my brokenness has become more and more my strength. I wonder if you have experienced the same? Where would we be without our crosses and sufferings? What do we have of true value that has not come at the price of suffering?
Let me get out the way and let a Saint explain it. This is from St. Rose of Lima whose feast we celebrated recently. This is an excerpt of what was in the breviary:
Our Lord and Saviour lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”