Do Christians have to suffer?

Today’s readings are focused on how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant:

The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. — Isaiah 5:7

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. — Mark 8:31

But, did Jesus really have to suffer in order to save us?

Do we, Catholics and Christians, really have to suffer in order to be saved?

The answer to both questions is no.

First, Jesus did not have to suffer in order to save us.

God’s mercy is unfathomable. Our human minds can never comprehend the depths of His love and His mercy for us. That is why even for those who have committed capital sins, there is still hope for salvation because of the Father’s mercy.

Salvation comes from God alone. — Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 169

What this means is that Jesus could have lived while still saving us from our sins.

Yet, Jesus embraced suffering in order for the Jews during His time to understand the Law and the prophets.

He embraced suffering in order to show us a way to live: completely obedient, faithful, and trusting in the Father even in the face of death.

He embraced suffering in order for us to encourage us in our own sufferings and to give us hope.

He embraced suffering in order to show us how much God loves us, by being the Paschal Lamb Himself.

He embraced suffering in order to give us a model to follow: someone who is willing to lay down his life for others, regardless of whether they follow him or persecute him.

The sufferings of Jesus had a purpose. He did not suffer just for suffering’s sake.

For us Christians or Catholics, we also do not have to suffer in order to be saved.

But, when we suffer because of striving to live righteously, of striving to live the Gospel, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to bring Jesus and to be Jesus to others, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to bring encouragement and hope to others, especially through our own sufferings, then we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to participate in the sufferings of Jesus, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer for the sake of others, of the Church, then we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer with a purpose, we have to endure it. More importantly, we have to enjoin it with the sufferings of Christ. Then, our sufferings also become redemptive.

But, when we are suffering just for suffering’s sake, then we have to stop embracing it. We have to move forward and stop hurting ourselves. The Father loves us so much to allow suffering just for suffering’s sake.

Are you suffering? What’s the purpose behind your suffering?

P.S. There are also sufferings, the reasons for which are hard to understand. There are sufferings which seem to have no purpose — like an accident or an illness. For these kinds of sufferings, we can only trust that God allowed them for a reason, for a purpose. We can only enjoin our sufferings with the suffering of Christ and His Church. Then, our sufferings become purposeful and redemptive.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. — Colossians 1:24