What does “redemptive suffering” and “carrying your cross” mean in our daily life?

Steven PutmanQandALeave a Comment

Question: As Catholics, we talk a lot about “redemptive suffering” and “carrying your cross.” What does that mean practically in daily life?

Answer: When Jesus spoke these words, they would have sounded quite intense to his hearers. “Pick up your cross daily and follow me.” At the time, Jesus hadn’t yet been crucified. A cross was a Roman torture instrument. “Pick up the thing that tortures you the most,” Jesus seemed to say. Unfortunately, most of us have no real shortage of these in our life. To take up the cross isn’t to seek out new sufferings in our life. It’s to accept the life we have.

Of course, unjust or unhealthy circumstances should be rectified when possible. But there are always circumstances that remain out of our immediate control. It could be pain management, the defiance of our teenage child, or an unhealthy work environment… but you need the paycheck to pay the bills. In difficult circumstances, it can be easier to blame, complain, or daydream our way out of it. None of these are real solutions, since none of them accept the reality of the situation at hand. Those options only add to our suffering, since they damage relationships, fixate on the problem, or set up unrealistic expectations.

Instead, Jesus invites us to take up our cross – to look at the uncomfortable situation square in the eyes, take a deep breath, and do our best to be present to God’s grace in the moment. To love those in our path. To take things one step at a time.

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