Joy in Suffering


Desiring God

Ava Ryan ’23 and Elyza Tuan ’23 discuss the hidden value of suffering by examining literary and biblical examples.

Life is hard. There is no denying that. Sometimes you try really hard, and things don’t work out. Sometimes you do good things, but only bad things happen to you. But what if there was a way to find meaning and purpose in your suffering? Yes, you have to finish writing that paper, but it can be more than just finishing an assignment. Here, we have gathered a few examples from literature and real-life for you to reflect on, and maybe after reading about them, you can find some joy in your sufferings.

St. Faustina was an example of someone who saw suffering as an opportunity. When she was talking to one of the sisters in her convent about suffering, she said: “…it is precisely when I suffer much that my joy is greater, and when I suffer less, my joy is also less… When we suffer much we have a great chance to show God that we love him.” Instead of seeing suffering as a burden only, St. Faustina conveys that we have an opportunity to grow when we suffer. In difficult situations, we have the opportunity to practice our virtue. It is easy to do well without any obstacles, but when we are put to the test, it is easy to fall victim to defeat. We just want to give up because things are difficult and unfair, but in order to find happiness, we must push past those hardships and try our best. One way to help you find joy in suffering is by offering it up to God. Think of how pleasing it is to God when he sees that, despite all you are going through, you are finding a way to do it for him.

Tom from Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a prime example of a man who lived with immense faith through great suffering. Uncle Tom is a character based on Josiah Henson, an enslaved African man in the nineteenth century. Tom, after being taken away from his family and sent to a seemingly good master, is sold to another family where he is also treated fairly well, but he eventually ends up with a cruel master, Legree. At one point, Legree tries to force Tom to beat another slave. In great peril, he searched the depths of his heart to find the courage to do what was right. Tom stood strong and said he couldn’t do it which ended in him receiving a blow to the face. Legree persisted, asking: “An’t yer mine, now, body and soul?” Beecher Stowe wrote: “In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom’s soul,”(Beecher Stowe 335), and Tom responded that, no, he did not belong to him. Tom knew that he belonged to God. Throughout the book, Tom displays his faith in every aspect of his life: preaching to others, having the Bible read to him, and accepting all that comes his way, even in the worst of situations. The sharp realization of God as master overall helped Tom to find the grace and joy he needed to do what was right.

Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the Holocaust, and he wrote the book A Man’s Search for Meaning shortly after his release. This book described the Holocaust in a new light, from the perspective of a psychologist analyzing the mental states of those he encountered, prisoners or Gestapo. Through the course of the book, he observes meaning as a necessary aspect of survival. His meaning came from the thought of his wife, no matter if she was alive or dead. It only mattered that their love went on because love transcends life and death. Frankl obviously suffered much pain, pain beyond our understanding, but he found meaning in it. He wrote: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” That means that every burden we take on can become outward-looking if we take it on willingly. Then, it becomes less about us, and more about others.

And finally, there is Jesus who gave the ultimate sacrifice of love: his own life.  

If we take these examples and apply them to our own lives, we can slowly start to see that there is a way to use our sufferings for the greater good. Whether it be physical or mental, we can aspire to be like these role models and push through, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, doing so for God and others. Maybe now, even though you still have those two and a half pages left of your essay, you can take joy in completing it by offering it up to God for someone in need.


Ava Ryan ’23 and Elyza Tuan ’23, Staff Writer and Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief,