Chapter 12 – Trials and Afflictions
Trials and Afflictions
XII Trials and Afflictions (click to download pdf)
Here, now, is something that you have heard more than once: We cannot go through this world without having to bear, each of us, his share of trials and crosses. One may live only a few years, or he may live many years—all the same: everyone has to suffer.
Trials and afflictions come in many different way. One is subject to trial from sickness and ill health: there is hardly a day in the year that he can say he is quite well, and that he must not suffer from someone bodily ailment or other. There is another whose bodily health, maybe, is good enough; but, that awful scourge of poverty! He has not wherewith sufficiently to clothe, nourish, or shelter himself; he suffers great want. Others, again, are continually persecuted by their fellow-men. Whatever they undertake, they never succeed with it. Everything turns against them. In spite of their best efforts to get ahead in the world, they cannot; they rather go backward.
If only this were all! Many a man, besides the load of outward or temporal afflictions that he has to carry, must bear a heavier cross of inward spiritual troubles. There are strong passions to conquer; great temptations to overcome; his own weakness to support; dangerous occasions to avoid. And this inward struggle of the soul frequently last for years. Many a one would gladly sacrifice all his worldly possessions if he could thereby rid himself of this spiritual cross. He strives honestly to serve God, to live as a good, pious Christian ought to; and yet—this heavy burden to carry!
Where do these trials and afflictions come from? They may be caused by one’s own sins. You may be the maker of your own cross by the sins you commit. Or, God may send you these troubles to punish you for the sins you committed formerly: He gives you a chance to atone for them. Or, maybe, God lays these crosses on you merely to try you; thereby He wants to give you chances to gain greater merits for heaven. The devil does not like to see one lead a good, pious life, either; and, therefore, he also comes to trouble you. He puts all kinds of stumbling-blocks in your way, that you may fall and hurt yourself. God permits him to do so; but he can go no further than God allows him.
Here are a few passages from Holy Writ on the point: “Man, born of woman, living for a short time, is filled with many miseries, “says Job. And St. Paul says: “Whom the Lord loveth, He chastiseth: and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” And again: “All who live piously in Jesus Christ shall suffer persecution.”
What do you think now, dear children? Do you expect, if you want to be true followers of Jesus, that you shall have nothing to suffer in this world? Our Lord Himself said: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory?” And “the servant is not greater than his lord. IF they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
There, you may get ready. Trials and afflictions will come upon you. When they come, bear them patiently. If you get sick, and your pains are great, be as quiet as possible, and resigned to God’s holy will. Do not complain, much less murmur. Do not trouble your folks too much, those who have to wait upon you, by being peevish, and making them run for every little thing. Take your medicine willingly, even though it may be bitter. In such and all other trials be patient and resigned. Remember that one “My Jesus, Thy will be done!” said piously in time of sickness or other afflictions, is more pleasing to your Saviour, and more meritorious for yourself, than ten “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” might be at a time when you have nothing to suffer.
Do not measure your cross with that of others. Everybody has his cross to bear, you may be sure of that; but you should not become dissatisfied with yours, and wish you had someone else’s cross to carry, because you think it is so much lighter than your own. The cross that God has put upon you, or permitted to be laid upon you, is just the right one for you; it suits you better than any other would.
There was once a man who also was dissatisfied with the cross that God had sent him. He always thought, and often said, that he had the heaviest cross to carry; others hadn’t half as much to suffer, and they weren’t any better than himself; and he couldn’t see why he alone should have to suffer so much. Thus he complained and murmured against God. One night he had a dream. He was in the midst of a large field. On that field was an almost countless number of crosses fastened in the ground. An angel—it was his own guardian angel—appeared to him, and said: “You are ever complaining about the cross that God has placed upon you. You say it is too heavy. The crosses that others have are much lighter than yours. Now you shall have your choice. Come with me, and try the crosses in this field. You can pick out for yourself the one that suits you best.”
The man did as the angel told him. He tried one cross after another. One was too heavy, another was too sharp at the edges, another was too rough, etc. At last he found one that was just right, just as he himself wanted it to be; it was neither too heavy, nor was it too pointed, nor too rough. It was just the cross that suited him.
“Take it, then, and carry it patiently,” said the angel. “Do not complain anymore; for it is just the very cross that God has put upon you, and that you have so often complained about.”
“It is good for us,” says The Following of Christ, “to have some troubles and adversities now and then; for oftentimes they make a man enter into himself, that he may know that he is an exile, and place not his hopes in anything of the world.”