when you sufferAll of us have asked the questions, “Why do good people suffer?  Why do I have to suffer when I believe in Jesus, and He has promised new life, healing, and goodness to me?”  In Jeff Cavins’ new book, When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding, he offers readers a refreshing (but not new) perspective on why we suffer and how to suffer well.

Cavins takes the reader back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where the first sin occurred.  He relates that event to the Crucifixion, in which Jesus became sin.  Jesus showed us how to live by way of carrying our own crosses, but the concept of “offering it up” has become convoluted and cliched to many (cradle) Catholics who heard it ad nauseum growing up.  Consider this quote from When You Suffer:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about dying, which is where many people stop.  He came to show us how to live, and in showing us how to live, he showed us how to suffer.  If we really want an understanding of suffering, we need to look deeply into the life of Jesus.

Most of us don’t desire suffering, even if we’ve come to accept it as an inevitable part of our life’s journey.  The problem isn’t that we know we must suffer, but that we haven’t really learned how to suffer well.  Cavins explains through simplicity and wisdom that suffering is meaningless unless we learn to unite our moral and physical suffering to the suffering of Jesus.  It’s ultimately an act of the will, in which we say, “Jesus, I offer this up to You for (your intention).”

Because of Cavins’ extensive knowledge of Scripture, he is able to relate his points back to the Bible.  One such reference included St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:24) that states:

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…

Cavins explains beautifully that Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was not defective or incomplete, but that He – as the Head of the Church – wants us to compensate for the Body – which is the Church.  This incredible analogy succinctly describes why we are called to suffer with Jesus.  All of our afflictions are permitted by God for a grander purpose, which is to draw us out of ourselves and focusing on our pain into the Heart of Jesus and bringing Him our offering of pain as intercessory payment.  Essentially, when we offer up our hardships to Jesus on someone else’s behalf, we can view it as “heavenly cash” (p. 95) that is paid for someone else’s benefit.

Using anecdotal examples of how Cavins has learned to suffer in this way, the reader gleans how the principles of When You Suffer are put into practice.  The final chapter provides ten tips on what to do when facing despair, how to pray through suffering (especially using devotions, such as the rosary and Seven Sorrows of Mary), and how forgiveness is a form of healing in suffering.  When You Suffer is a must-read for anyone who has questioned why misfortune or constant hardship has befallen him, because he will be encouraged and uplifted to discover the treasure hidden in the midst of his pain.  A valuable grief resource, When You Suffer could be used in bereavement ministries (such as Stephen Ministry) or group study, especially during Lent.

Text Copyright 2016 Jeannie Ewing, all rights reserved.