Q : 
Let’s say there are two devout Catholics, both carry out the work of God. One is quite lucky all his life but the other encounters troubles in all aspects…lack of friends and family support, difficult career, lots of illnesses. Will the latter somehow get compensated more in heaven because of his sufferings during his lifetime?
【 Question from 】 San Francisco, US

Fr. Francis : 

There is a certain danger in answering hypothetical questions, since they tend to oversimplify life, and rarely account for all the diverse and invisible layers of what goes on in our mind and heart.

For one thing, is there really anyone who does not have any suffering all his life? Is it possible to truly love without having suffered? I am convinced that there is no true love without suffering, and such a life is not worth living, easy or not. Or rather, often we merely only imagine others do not suffer because we don’t see it, or they do not suffer the way we do?

But putting that aside, here are some of my thoughts:

God created each of us unique. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, we are like different flowers in the field, some with great beauty that draw our admiration, but others plain and simple. Yet they are all masterpieces, beloved by God. The same is our life. Some have to undergo great suffering to manifest God’s omnipotence and providence. Others live a simple quiet life, sanctifying others by performing their little duties of the moment. Both are destined to be great saints.

It would be a grave illusion to imagine that some lives are easier and others are more difficult. We imagine that because we think of earthly things and we measure others according to ourselves. But God knows our heart and His plan is greater than our individual perspective.

When we say someone’s life is unfairly hard, who is to say an easier life for that soul would not be more detrimental? Some souls are made so that they can grow only under adversity. An easier path may leave them to dissipate their life in all the wrong things before having first developed discipline and faithfulness to God. These are like the great trees in the mountains, grow stronger year by year under the buffets of wind and storms.

Conversely, when we say someone’s life is unfairly easy, who is to say that this soul is not rather particularly simple and fragile? And so God needs to protect it from storms and buffets, in order to reveal a different kind of God’s glory in the haven of His greenhouse?

And no one would think of putting greenhouse flowers in the wild, just as no one would plant great trees in greenhouses. But they are equally God’s masterpieces, equally made to glorify God.

Rather, in both cases, the more fundamental challenge is for each to recognize God’s calling in his life, and find the courage and resolve to say yes to it daily. To the former, this question would not be harder, and to the latter any easier; for the one living a harder life tends to be more aware of his utter dependence on God, while the one living an easier life tends more easily forget his final end and so his need for God.

In the end, we realize that in God’s mysterious way, we have to trust that God knows His plan for us and He knows what He is doing. Whether it be hard or easy, each day is God’s gift for me and I must choose to be faithful in doing God’s Will the best I can, in the circumstances I find myself, and that He can take care of everything else. And that is sufficient for me.