Suffering Kindly

Father Faber notes that the person who suffers patiently and kindly performs an act of kindness upon those who witness the suffering. Consider how “the thoughts of the dying mother are all concentrated on her new-born child.” Her kind suffering is “a beautiful emblem of unselfish holiness.”

Moreover, Faber keenly observes that “everybody’s cross is shared by many. . . . We see our own crosses on other people’s shoulders, and overwhelm them with kindness accordingly.” For instance, “it is not we who have been tossing wakeful all night that are the sufferers, but the poor nurse who has been fighting all night against the sleep of health by our bedside.”

“Kind suffering is, in fact, a form of kind action, with peculiar rubrics of its own. But if all kindness needs grace, kind suffering needs it a hundredfold. Of a truth those are rare natures which know how to suffer gracefully, and in whose endurance there is a natural beauty which simulates, and sometimes even seems to surpass, what is supernatural. To the Christian, no sight is more melancholy than this simulating of grace by nature. It is a problem which makes him thoughtful, but to which no thinking brings a satisfactory solution. With the Christian kind suffering must be almost wholly supernatural. . . . There is a harmonious fusion of suffering and gentleness effected by grace, which is one of the most attractive features of holiness.”

“With quiet and unobtrusive sweetness the sufferer makes us feel as if he were ministering to us rather than we to him. It is we who are under the obligation. To wait on him is a privilege rather than a task. Even the softening, sanctifying influences of suffering seem to be exercising themselves on us rather than on him. His gentleness is making us gentle. . . . We have all the advantages of being his inferiors without being vexed with a sense of our inferiority. What is more beautiful than considerateness for others when we ourselves are unhappy? It is a grace made out of a variety of graces, and yet while it makes a deep impression on all who come within the sphere of its influence, it is a very hidden grace. It is part of those deep treasures of the heart which the world can seldom rifle.”

“To be subject to low spirits is a sad liability. Yet, to a vigorous, manly heart, it may be a very complete sanctification. . . . When the very darkness within us creates a sunshine around us, then has the Spirit of Jesus taken possession of our souls.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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