HOW TO SUFFER TRIBULATIONS WITH MERIT FOR ETERNITY
He who suffers tribulations in this world should, in the first place, abandon sin, and endeavour to recover the grace of God; for as long as he remains in sin, the merit of all his suffering is lost. If, says St. Paul, I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1 Cor. xiii. 3). If you suffered all the torments of the Martyrs, or were burned alive, and were not in the state of grace, it would profit you nothing.
But to those who can suffer with God, and with resignation for God’s sake, all the tribulations shall be a source of comfort and gladness. Your sorrow shall be turned into joy (Jo. xvi. 20). Hence, after having been insulted and beaten by the Jews, the Apostles departed from the Council full of joy; because they had been maltreated for the love of Jesus Christ. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus (Acts v. 41). Hence, when God visits us with any tribulations, we must say with Jesus Christ: The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (Jo. xviii. 11). It is necessary to know that every tribulation, though it may come from men, is sent to us by God.
When we are surrounded on all sides with tribulations, and know not what to do, we must turn to God, Who alone can console us. Thus King Josaphat in his distress, said to the Lord: As we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to thee (2 Par. xx. 12). Thus David also in his tribulation had recourse to God, and God consoled him: In my trouble I cried to the Lord and he heard me (Ps. cxix. 1). We should turn to God and pray to Him, and never cease to pray till He hears us. As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress, so are our eyes unto the Lord our God until he have mercy on us (Ps. cxxii. 2). We must keep our eyes continually raised to God, and must continue to implore His aid, until He is moved to compassion for our miseries. We must have great confidence in the Heart of Jesus Christ, and should not imitate certain persons, who at once lose courage if they do not feel they are heard as soon as they begin to pray. To them may be applied the words of the Saviour to St. Peter: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt? (Matt. xiv. 31). When the favours which we ask are spiritual, or can be profitable to our souls, we should be certain of being heard, provided we persevere in prayer, and do not lose confidence. All things whatsover you ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you (Mark xi. 24). In tribulations, then, we should never cease to hope with confidence that the Divine mercy will console us; and if our afflictions continue, we must say with Job: Although he should kill me, I will trust in him (Job xiii. 15).
Souls of little faith, instead of turning to God in their tribulations, have recourse to human means, and thus provoke God’s anger, and remain in their miseries. Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it (Ps. cxxvi. 1). On this passage St. Augustine writes: “He builds up; He enlightens our understanding; He leads us to Faith; and still we labour as though we were the master-workers!” All good, all help, must come from the Lord. Without Him creatures can give us no assistance.
The Lord complains by the mouth of His Prophet: Is not the Lord in Sion?… Why then have they provoked me to wrath with their idols… Is there no balm in Galaad, or is there no physician there? Why then is not the wound of the daughter of my people closed? (Jer. viii. 22). Am I not in Sion? Why then do men provoke me to anger by recurring to creatures which they convert into idols by placing in them all their hopes? Do they seek a remedy for their miseries? Why do they not seek it in Galaad, a mountain full of balsamic ointments which signify the Divine mercy? There they can find the Physician and the remedy for all their evils. Why, then, says the Lord, do your wounds remain open? Why are they not healed? It is because you have not recourse to Me but to creatures, and because you confide in them and not in Me.
In another place the Lord says: Am I become a wilderness to Israel, or a lateward springing land? Why then have my people said: We are revolted; we will come to thee no more?… But my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jer. ii. 31). Why, My children, do you say that you will have recourse to Me no more? Am I become to you a barren land, which gives no fruit, or gives it too late? Is it for this reason that you have so long forgotten Me? By these complaints He manifests to us His desire that we pray to Him in order that He may be able to give us His graces. And He also gives us to understand that when we pray to Him, He is not slow, but instantly begins to assist us.
The Lord, says David, is not asleep when we turn to His Goodness, and ask the graces which are profitable to our souls. He hears us immediately, because He is anxious for our welfare. Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep that keepeth Israel (Ps. cxx. 4). When we pray for temporal favours, St. Bernard says that God “will give what we ask, or something more useful.” He will grant us the grace which we desire, whenever it is profitable to our souls; or He will give us a more useful grace, such as the grace to resign ourselves to the Divine will, and to suffer with patience our tribulations, so as to merit a great increase of glory in Heaven.