The Little Way of Suffering

The Little Way of Suffering
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By Camryn Kasinski

I’m constantly in awe of stories of courageous saints who suffered greatly for love of God—but my life just doesn’t look like theirs. St. Maximilian Kolbe gave up his life to save a fellow inmate at a concentration camp, Bl. Margaret of Costello was born profoundly disabled and then abandoned by her family, and St. Josephine Bakhita was abused and mutilated as a slave in Sudan. These saints and so many others joyfully offered their physical, mental, and spiritual anguish for the salvation of souls, and while I found these stories a refreshing antidote to our secular culture’s hatred of discomfort, I just couldn’t relate with any of these holy role models. My daily routine involved working 9-5, doing household chores, talking with friends, watching Netflix, and going to bed. Yet I still felt a call to do more.

It was through getting to know St. Therese of Lisieux that I found the answer I was looking for. At first, I was intimidated by Therese’s eager spirit. In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she writes about her desire to be martyred to show Christ how much she loves Him. When she wakes one morning coughing up blood, she doesn’t feel dread, but excitement that she has a more intense opportunity to love Jesus. I knew God was calling me to unite my suffering to His, and I prayed that I might have a willingness to suffer, but I wasn’t sure that excitement would be my first reaction were I to wake up deathly ill the next morning.

However, focusing first on Therese’s humble beginnings before her courageous end helped me realize that every saint has to start somewhere. Therese lived a generally comfortable, privileged childhood, doted on by her parents and older sisters. Still, she found small things to offer up to God, such as sitting with her back straight and refusing to rest against the backs of chairs. This type of everyday discomfort helped build up her suffering muscles for when it really mattered. Since she was accustomed to offering up small sacrifices throughout her early life, she was prepared to suffer joyfully through multiple hardships, including chronic illness and spiritual anguish, later in life.

Inspired by child St. Therese, I began to offer up what I considered to be small, insignificant sufferings: sitting in traffic jams, having an anxiety attack, working through headaches, affording car repairs. By inviting God into these seemingly mundane experiences, my relationship with Christ deepened, and I came to realize that God doesn’t need big, heroic acts of extreme suffering and sacrifice. He can work just as well with the boring everyday stuff too—in fact, He desires to be more closely united to us through the little moments of life. The Church thrives and is strengthened through the hidden, everyday sufferings that ordinary people like you and me endure. 

St. Therese taught me that suffering doesn’t require a traumatic event or a natural disaster. Suffering simply requires a heart willing to love. Undergoing even the smallest sacrifice for love of Christ and the salvation of souls draws us closer to God through a death to self and an opening of the soul to Christ. As Therese’s sainthood shows us, God will greatly reward those who are open to suffering for love of Him.