The joy of suffering for the adult life


Adulting. We’ve all heard the phrase, we’re college students. Many of us have used the phrase, usually complaining about having to complete some responsibility that we either do not wish to complete, or have never had to before. “I don’t want to adult today” could probably be the most popular post on the Facebook page, “Overheard at Franciscan.”

But when was the last time you heard someone use it seriously and healthily?

Adulting is very difficult sometimes, especially when you have to do all those “firsts.” Perhaps you are paying your own apartment rent, perhaps you have to cook for yourself for the first time, or perhaps you have your first scary job interview. Whatever the case may be, all of us college students are experiencing new levels of responsibility on some level.

I know that personally there is a part of me that just wants to stay in my shell and ask friends to go with me every time, call my mom with those questions, and have other people do the hard things for me.

Yet isn’t branching out a part of the great adventure God has planned for every one of us? Following God is the most rewarding and exciting adventure that anyone can embark upon, if you accept your God-given vocation out of love for the One who gave it to you.

Granted, fulfilling “adult” responsibilities isn’t always naturally fun. It can be scary, it can be tiring, and it can be difficult. Facing the reality that life contains suffering is something that requires maturity. This is something that we have to come to terms with in our own way.

Many adults in the world come to lead a pessimistic life, complaining periodically about how much they have gone through, and believing that nothing ever goes their way. They lose the joy that they once had, the joy they almost accuse innocent young adults of having, and resign themselves to suffering.

In a world broken by suffering and sin, it is easier than one would think to acquire this attitude. I have found myself thinking similar thoughts before I remember that God calls us to joy not only when it’s natural, but when it is the last thing on our minds.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about joy lately, and discovering that true joy does not come from having things go your way. True joy does not develop naturally. Joy is a decision made by each and every one of us to live in a spirit of hope with the knowledge that God always fulfills His promises.

Ultimately, this is what the Advent season is about. Advent is a time of hope, during which we reflect on how God fulfilled His promise of a Messiah to the Jews, a promise that was generations old.

With the remembrance of this fulfillment, we can find hope that God will do the same for us. He is a God who always keeps promises, be they small or large. And He has promised to make something beautiful out of our lives: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

In this way, we can have hope for what God has planned in each of our futures. And because we know He is faithful to come through, there is meaning to every trial, every difficulty, and every suffering, even if we cannot see it at the time.

There are so many small reasons we can find in this adult world to complain. In a sinful world, things almost never go the ideal way that we planned them. It is easy to become pessimistic, and let down your hope.

But let the Advent spirit pervade your heart, whether that heart be excited or daunted by the future. The message of Advent is one of hope that does not come through ease. Advent has no significance without the message of what the Messiah’s mission in this world was: to suffer and die. We can have hope in our salvation only through the suffering of Another.

So what will it cost you to offer up your own suffering to God in return? Since you’re going to experience suffering anyway, it’s your attitude that determines whether this trial will make you into a weary-hearted adult who is always striving, or into a joy-filled adult, spreading joy in the hope you have found through sharing in Christ’s saving work.

So we come back to adulting. It is your choices now that shape what kind of attitude you want to have toward the adult life. Will you live out your vocation, fraught with suffering though it may be, to find out what God has in store at the end?

In the end, joy is the key to living the adventure of life as God intended it to be for you.

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