One of the subjects I could wax and wane about forever is the subject of suffering. I think you know that anyone who has the Divine Stigmata, physical or interior, would be the right person to know about this. Suffering, or hardship, or bad times, is one of the most contradictory, and even confusing subjects in the spiritual life. It’s important to get this squared away, so that we know if we are in a good place or a bad place when we suffer. There are also many ways to look upon the subject and it is important to examine it from all points of view.
In the spiritual life the times of suffering are actually the times of gaining merit. Does that mean suffering is good? Yes, on a temporary level, it is good. It is not something that we will have eternally but if we are able to bear our sufferings here well, then in the eternal, as well as the spiritual plane right now, we will rank high. Not all suffering comes directly from God in the order of Reparatory Suffering. Only special souls are given this grace because these souls have paid for all or most of their sins and they have the ability to bear pain for others. This is a call to holiness and these people are called “victim souls.” The name can be misleading but it means that you are a victim in the same way that Jesus was, and you continue His sufferings. It’s as if Jesus is living on Earth in you and expiates for the sins of others continually. I cannot think of how yoga explains this except when Ramakrishna said that he got throat cancer because he took on one karma too many. He said that gurus take on the karmas of their disciples, and untie the knots of their karmas (other gurus say this also.) In other words, a disciple or student who believes in you comes to you and what does he give you? His sinfulness. And what do you give him? You give him the grace that flows through you. But what happens to the debt of his sins? According to this theory, it falls upon your back. It sounds harsh and I don’t think it’s always as harsh as it sounds. Many people who you help, God simply transmits grace and you don’ have to suffer. Nityananda did say that yogis suffer. Of course they do. Anybody who attains holiness and self realization must suffer because to give up all the evil of the world, the flesh and the devil makes us suffer.
Our natural instinct in the flesh and in the spirit is to be happy. That’s why nobody thinks that suffering is a good thing. But here are the things that suffering does that are good:
1. When we suffer it is payment for sin. It cleanses our souls.
2. When we suffer we gain merit for ourselves and others.
3. When we suffer the cleansing brings us closer to God in perfection and holiness.
4. When we suffer it makes us think about God and the last things; whereas when we are having a good time or happy on earth we tend to forget God. In our earthly joy we get lost or detained in mortal sense and forget the spiritual.
5. Suffering helps us to understand the pains of others and gives us, hopefully, compassion and empathy.
6. The more we suffer on earth with a good attitude, that is, with an attitude of love and acceptance, the higher our glory will be in Heaven.
7. When we are suffering, at least in some cases, we are less likely to commit sins.
How Having a Good Time and Comfort
Can Actually Work to Our Detriment:
1. When we are comfortable and physically happy, we tend to forget God and get pulled into the earthly feelings and thoughts. We get lost to God. We forget prayer, church, and charity. We think we have it made and we do not worry about the far-away heavenly things.
2. When we are happy, even when we are spiritually happy in the state of illumination, we are gaining little or no merit. We gain merit in the time called the “dark night,” but in the time of spiritual joy we are being given a vacation. We are not working for God for the benefit of our own soul or other’s. God gives us this joy because God wants us to have breaks before we go on to more sufferings, (by the small or large sufferings.)
3. Good times can lead us into serious sins. If we enjoy a physical act, such as food, drink, sex or vice, we might continue to do it. Then we fall into the mire of sin – because we enjoyed something of a good time. Good times can lead to trouble.
4. Good times make us forget how others are suffering. When we have a pain of our own we think of the pain others are in. We develop empathy. If people have good times only they become vain, shallow, and without sensitivity to the feelings of others. Such people, if they continue like this, will end up in Hell.
5. When a person has everything they want, they begin to act like psychopaths or sociopaths. They think the whole world revolves around them and their needs and their desires. They can become like Lucifer, who refused to humble himself. If life gives you everything all the time you can be spoiled in your character and in your soul.
6. If you are always physically happy (or most of the time) it has a tendency to take you away from God, and then you can be lost to Hell.
As a person who repairs for the sins of others, at times, (you would think paying for my own is a full-time job, but somehow I manage the time) I want to urge you not to be afraid of pain. Pain is a sensation, a feeling and experience that we must endure. We either take it here or in eternity. It is always temporary. (I am not speaking about those who endure constant, chronic and inescapable pain…I’m speaking of most people but not including the extreme cases.) In my own case, when I received the Divine Stigmata, God left me for the most part for eighteen years. That was the penance, the dark side of the grace. But it was not unbearable, because God gave me simple, shallow consolations to make up for it. I earned a good living and was able to give more money to the church for Masses for the Souls in Purgatory, than I had ever previously given. I gave a few thousand a year for that, and it made me extremely happy. I was also able to buy my own house with wonderful nature and animals, and an island. I became independent and quite a woman in my own right. That was the consolation. But spiritually I was a nobody. God was just a memory. I would sit and think about the high points with God and would meditate on them, but felt they were far, far away. It was like a Lost Love I once had, and I could not win him back. I would daydream about him, but could not get anywhere near him. I had been banished from God into the “shallows and wastes of human sense.” This Purgatory lasted eighteen years. It did not last forever. When God returned, all was made well as all is well that ends well.
God told me I would be happy from now on – but that does not mean every day. About once a week average I suffer emotional and mental pain in order to help the Holy Souls. This hurts, but it doesn’t bother me as soon as I know it’s for Souls. Then I’m thrilled, because either a Soul in Purgatory jumps much higher or closer to God, or it is about to ascend, or it does ascend that very day. What rejoicing then! God shows me all these things in dreams.
Now if I was a coward, and feared suffering, there is no way God could give me any of these graces. If you cry to God all the time to take away your pain God knows you’re a putz. You’re a baby. God does not give big graces to little babies. To move high up in holiness you have to be a big soul, a big heart, and you have to have courage and the ability to take risks.
We are not meant to be constantly happy here in the flesh. But suffering here is not usually on all levels. If your body hurts does not mean your mind and emotions hurt. It is rare that God will afflict you on all levels. In other words; one saint gets bodily pain but great spiritual visions and consolations. Another has a real healthy body (myself) but when she suffers, it’s with great menal/emotional pain. If we get hit with all levels of pain at once, that is Hell. God gives us Purgatory, but rarely Hell. It does happen, but it is usually temporary. Grin and bear it. It makes your faith strong.
Suffering builds your character. Hedonism makes you weak. You are worth more to God in your suffering than at any other time.
The Eastern Attitude Toward Suffering
It is quite well known to many people that the great yogi, Buddha, said that the source of our sufferings is desires. These would be the desires of the world, flesh and devil – whereas desires for God, of course, would not cause us any sufferings. In order to avoid our sufferings, we have to give up all desires of the flesh, and that is a suffering or a great sacrifice in itself. But the yogis do it. They have this great story Baba told us in his book, about the two birds in a tree. One majestic, serene, on a top bough. The other on a lower bough is tasting fruits. One fruit is sweet. Ah, let’s try some more. The next is bitter. Then sweet. He keeps tasting and tasting, but always gets a lot of bitter fruits as he tastes. He’s upset all the time. The one above just sits there, no tasting, no fruit. Just serene as can be.
That’s supposed to be us. That’s what Buddha is saying. And all yogis say the same. We must forget the world and the flesh and meditate on God all the time. That sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. Because even in our daily lives with God, we can learn to live our lives inside that great grace called “witness consciousness.” I explained this elsewhere. You stay in your Spirit, which is your Highest or Master or Oversear, or your Highest Self. You stay in that place, and you watch yourself as you go through daily life, and you do not get absorbed or caught up or lost in your daily life. You stay up there, in that bough, looking down, and you stay serene. Although incredibly difficult, it is not impossible.
The Christians explain that sort of attitude like this: Holiness depends on your alignment to the will of God. Whatever happens you accept without any anger or bitterness or remorse, but with acceptance that it is the will of God. You do not mourn or grieve over your sorrows, but you stay in the will of God, saying that whatever happens, is for the good or there is good in it. This might sound preposterous on the surface but please think it out. You are not supposed to accept sin and evil and cruelty, but understand that God will take it and transform it somehow, some way, toward the good. You wait for that, you expect it. To those who love God, all turns out for the good, St. Paul said.
You might say that to sit on that bough of serenity is impossible. But the more you try to stay in the Presence of God, the better you will get at it. All the evils around you, God is your refuge and your strength. Each day is a test. We are on a journey. God is watching us, inside us, daily. How do we fare in the course of life, in this day’s lessons? Will we pass, will we fail? Every time I go through a trial I see a school in my dream, and I know if I am graduating or not. We MUST have trials, or else we will not learn, not develop, and not become great souls. We are worth nothing to God and to ourselves if we lead lives of fun. It is in the trials that we become the salt of the earth.