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CHAPTER XIII. On The Immeasurable Dignity of Temporal Suffering.
The Servant.—Tell me now, tender Lord, what this suffering is which Thou thinkest so very profitable and good?
Eternal Wisdom.—What I mean is every kind of suffering, whether willingly accepted or unwillingly incurred—as when a man makes a virtue of necessity in not wishing to be exempt from suffering without My will, and ordering it, in humble patience, to My eternal praise; and the more willingly he does this, the more precious and agreeable it is to Me. Touching such kinds of suffering, hear further, and write it down in the bottom of thy heart, and keep it as a sign to set before the spiritual eyes of thy soul. My dwelling is in the pure soul as in a paradise of delights, for which reason I cannot endure that she should lovingly and longingly attach herself to anything. But, from her very nature, she is inclined to pernicious lusts, and therefore I encompass her path with thorns. I garnish all her outlets with adversity, whether she like it or not, so that she may not escape from Me; her ways I strew with tribulation, so that she may not set the foot of her heart’s desire anywhere except in the loftiness of My divine nature. And if all hearts were but one heart, they would not be able to bear even that least reward which I certainly will give for the suffering endured by anyone for love of Me. Such is My eternal order in all nature, from which I do not swerve; what is precious and good must be earned with bitterness; he who recoils at this, let him recoil; many are indeed called, but few are chosen.
The Servant.—It may well be, Lord, that suffering is an infinite good, provided it be not without measure, and not too dreadful and overwhelming. Lord, Thou alone knowest all hidden things, and didst create all things in weight, in number and measure; Thou knowest also that my sufferings are measureless, that they are wholly beyond my strength. Lord, is there anyone in all this world who has constantly more painful sufferings than I? They are to me invincible—how am I to endure them? Lord, if Thou wouldst send me ordinary sufferings, I could bear them, but I do not see how I can ever endure such extraordinary sufferings as these—sufferings which in so hidden a manner oppress my heart and soul, which only Thou canst perfectly understand.
Eternal Wisdom.—Every sick man imagines that his own sickness is the worst, and every man in distress, his own distress the greatest. Had I sent thee other sufferings it would have been the same. Conform thyself freely to My will under every pain which I ordain thee to suffer, without excepting this or the other suffering. Dost thou not know that I only desire what is best for thee, even with as kindly a feeling as thou thyself? Hence it is that I am the Eternal Wisdom, and that I know better than thou what is for thy good. Hence it is that thou mayst have felt that the sufferings which I send are much more exquisite, and penetrate deeper, and operate better, for him who does them justice, than all self-chosen sufferings. Why then dost thou so complain to Me? Address Me rather as follows: O my most faithful Father, do to me at all times what Thou wilt!
The Servant.—O Lord, it is so easy to talk, but the reality is so difficult to endure, for it is so very painful.
Eternal Wisdom.—If suffering gave no pain, it could not be called suffering. There is nothing more painful than suffering, and nothing more joyful than to have suffered. Suffering is a short pain and a long joy. Suffering gives to the sufferer pain here and joy hereafter. Suffering kills suffering. Suffering is ordained that the sufferer may not suffer eternally. Hadst thou so much spiritual sweetness and divine consolation and heavenly delight as, at all times, to overflow with the divine dew, it would not be for thee so very meritorious of itself, since, for all this together, I should not have to thank thee so much; it could not exculpate thee so much as an affectionate suffering or patience in adversity, in which thou sufferest for My sake. Sooner will ten be perverted and ruined in the midst of a great delight and joyous sweetness than one in the midst of constant suffering and adversity. If thou hadst as much science as all the astronomers, if thou couldst discourse as ably of God as all the tongues of men and angels, and didst possess the treasures of knowledge of all the masters, not all this could avail to advance thee in a good life, so much as if thou didst give thyself up, and didst abandon thyself in all thy sufferings to God; for the former is common to the good and the bad, but the latter is proper to My elect alone. If anyone were able rightly to weigh time and eternity, he ought rather to desire to lie in a fiery furnace for a hundred years than to be deprived in eternity of the smallest reward for the smallest suffering; for this has an end, but the other is without end.
The Servant.—Ah, sweet and dear Lord, how like a sweet harp are these words to a suffering mortal! Lord, Lord, wouldst Thou but cheer me thus and come to visit me in my sufferings, I should be glad to suffer; it would then be better for me to suffer than not to suffer.
Eternal Wisdom.—Now, then, hearken to the sweet music of the distended strings of that Divine harp—a God-suffering man—how richly it sounds, how sweetly it vibrates. Before the world, suffering is a reproach, but before Me it is an infinite honour. Suffering is an extinguisher of My wrath, and an obtainer of My favour. Suffering makes a man in My sight worthy of love, for the sufferer is like Me. Suffering is a hidden treasure which no one can make good; and though a man might kneel before Me a hundred years to beg a friendly suffering, he nevertheless would not earn it. Suffering changes an earthly man into a heavenly man. Suffering brings with it the estrangement of the world, but confers, instead, My intimate familiarity. It lessens delight and increases grace. He to whom I am to show Myself a friend, must be wholly disclaimed and abandoned by the world. Suffering is the surest way, the nearest way, and the shortest way. He who rightly knows how profitable suffering is, ought to receive it as a gift worthy of God. Oh, how many a man there is who once was a child of eternal death, and plunged in the profoundest sleep, whom suffering has wakened up and encouraged to a good life. How many a wild beast, how many an untamed bird, there is in human form, whom constant suffering has shut up, as it were, in a cage, who, if any one were to leave him time and place free, would do his best to escape from his salvation. Suffering is a safeguard against grievous falls; it makes a man know himself, rely on himself, and have faith in his neighbour. Suffering keeps the soul humble and teaches patience. It is the guardian of purity, and confers the crown of eternal salvation. There is probably no man living but who derives good from suffering, whether he be in a state of sin, or on the eve of conversion, or in the fruition of grace, or on the summit of perfection; for it purges the soul as fire purges iron and purifies gold; it adorns the wrought jewel. Suffering takes away sin, lessens the fire of purgatory, expels temptation, consumes imperfections, and renovates the spirit. It imparts true confidence, a clear conscience, and constant loftiness of mind. Know that it is a healthy beverage, and a wholesome herb above all the herbs of paradise. It chastises the body which, at any rate, must rot away, but it nourishes the noble soul which shall endure for ever. Behold, the noble soul blooms by suffering even as the beautiful rose by the fresh dews of May! Suffering makes a wise mind and an experienced man. A man who has not suffered what does he know? Suffering is affection’s rod, a paternal blow given to My elect. Suffering draws and forces men to God, whether they like it or not. He who is always cheerful in suffering, has for his servants joy and sorrow, friend and foe. How often hast thou not thrust an iron bit between the gnashing teeth of thy enemies, and rendered them, with thy joyous praise, and thy meekness in suffering, powerless? Sooner would I create suffering out of nothing than leave my friends unprovided with it; for in suffering, every virtue is preserved, man adorned, his neighbour reformed, and God praised. Patience in suffering is a living sacrifice, it is a sweet smell of balsam before My divine face, it is an appealing wonder before the entire host of heaven. Never was a skillful knight in a tournament so gazed at as a man who suffers well is gazed at by all the heavenly court. All the saints are on the side of the suffering man; for, indeed, they have all partaken of it before him, and they call out to him with one voice that it contains no poison, but is a wholesome beverage. Patience in suffering is superior to raising the dead, or the performing of other miracles. It is a narrow way which leads direct to the gates of heaven. Suffering makes us companions of the martyrs, it carries honour with it, and leads to victory against every foe. Suffering clothes the soul in garments of rose colour, and in the brightness of purple; in suffering she wears the garland of red roses, and carries the sceptre of green palms. Suffering is for her as a shining ruby in a young maiden’s necklace. Adorned with it, she sings with a sweet voice and a free heart a new song which not all the angelic choirs could ever sing, because they never knew suffering. And, to be short, those who suffer are called the poor before the world, but before Me they are called the blessed, for they are My elect.
The Servant.—Oh, how plainly does it appear that Thou art the Eternal Wisdom, since Thou canst bring the truth home with such cogency that no one doubts it any longer. No wonder that he, to whom Thou dost make suffering appear so lovely, can bear sufferings. Lord, in consequence of Thy words, all sufferings in future must be easier and full of joy for me. Lord, my true Father, behold, I kneel before Thee this day, and praise Thee fervently for my present sufferings, and also for the measureless sufferings of the past, which I deemed so very great, because they appeared so hostile to me.
Eternal Wisdom.—But what is thy opinion now?
The Servant.—Lord, my opinion in very truth is this: that when I look at Thee, Thou delight of my eyes, with looks of love, the great and violent sufferings with which, in so paternal a manner, Thou hast disciplined me, and at the sight of which Thy pious friends were filled with such terror on my account, have been like a sweet fall of dew in May.
(Now, when the same preacher had begun to write on suffering, there appeared to him, in the way already mentioned above, the same two persons that were in sorrow and trouble, sitting before him, and one of them prayed him to play on the harp to her. This he took amiss, and answered that it would be an unpriestly thing. Then he was told that it would not be unpriestly, and presently there entered a youth who prepared a harp, and when he had turned it, he spun the two threads crosswise over the strings, and gave it into the hands of the brother, and then the brother began to write on suffering).
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