Reflections on Suffering by Thomas Merton, Part 4

The staff at Wesley is continuing to struggle with the writings of Thomas Merton in our spiritual formation time. Wanted to share some of it with you.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10
It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

From Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island, Chapter 5: The Word of the Cross: On Suffering (Part 4)
• When is suffering useless? When it only turns us in upon ourselves, when it makes us only sorry for ourselves, when it changes love into hatred, when it reduces all things to fear. Useless suffering cannot be consecrated to God because it is fruitless and rooted in sin. Sin and useless suffering increase together.
• But the grace of Christ is constantly working to turn useless suffering into something fruitful after all. How? By suddenly stanching the wound of sin. As soon as our life stops bleeding out of us in sin, suffering begins to have creative possibilities.
• The great duty of the religious soul is to suffer in silence. Too many people think they can become holy by talking about their trials. The awful fuss we sometimes make over the little unavoidable tribulations of life robs them of their fruitfulness. It turns them into occasions for self-pity or self-display, and consequently makes them useless. Be careful of talking about what you suffer, for fear that you may sin. Job’s friends sinned by the pious explanations they gave of suffering: and they sinned in giving Job a superficial explanation. The only decent thing is silence – and the sacraments.
• In order to face suffering in peace: Suffer without imposing on others a theory of suffering, without weaving a new philosophy of life from your own material pain, without proclaiming yourself a martyr, without counting out the price of your courage, without disdaining sympathy and without seeking too much of it. We must be sincere in our sufferings as we are in anything else. We must at once recognize our weakness and our pain, but we do not need to advertise them.
• We cannot suffer well unless we see Christ everywhere – both in suffering and in the charity of those who come to the aid of our affliction.

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