As a youth minister one of the number one questions teens ask me is, “Why do people suffer?” It is a fair question, and one I have an entirely new answer to.
Today, the world lost a wonderful person and a beautiful soul. Her name is Angela Faddis, and in 2011 this young mother of two was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Soon after her diagnosis, her husband Chris began to share her story, and her sufferings with the world. Over three weeks ago Chris posted on Angela’s Facebook page that she was in her final hours. She held on until today.
In recent weeks and months countless people have been touched by her story and by the beautiful and encouraging way that she offered up her sufferings for us. The prayer requests flooded in, on both sides of the front. Angela and her husband prayed as we prayed for them and for their family. The fruits of Angela’s suffering are already surfacing: people are returning to Mass, Confession, reconciling with others, and finding hope in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation.
Why do we suffer? Because Christ suffered. It is perhaps in our sufferings that we are most united to Him, who freely and willingly suffered all for the sake of our salvation. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput once wrote,
“Suffering can bend and break us. But it can also break us open to become the persons God intended us to be. It depends on what we do with the pain. If we offer it back to God, he will use it to do great things in us and through us, because suffering is fertile.”
Angela lived these words out until her dying breath. She showed us that suffering is not the end. In fact, it is the beginning. When we suffer we begin to understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and through that understanding we fall more in love with Him.
Christ suffered because His love for us was greater than the wounds He bore. Angela chose, in each moment, to offer her suffering up for others because she knew that God wanted to use her as a beacon of hope in the world. She chose to trust, and in so choosing, she invited her family, and all of us, to trust that God is greater than our deepest sufferings.
True love and suffering go hand in hand, but one is always greater than the other. True Love, Jesus Christ, conquered sin and death so that never again will suffering outweigh love.
Chris and Angela show us what true love means: looking at the face of suffering and saying “Jesus still rose, so we will trust.” We suffer so that, in some small way, we can image Christ’s suffering to a world that easily forgets about it. We suffer to be united to Him, to love Him, and to bring Him to a world that is so in need.
God conqueres all and gives hope to all His children, if only we open our hearts – as radically and beautifully as Angela did – to receive His blessings.
Angela Faddis, pray for us.