Jon and I have 3 major "go to" Scripture passages on suffering that we like to rank on a continuum of enthusisiam St.Paul, St. Peter and the St. James.
1. St. Paul tells us that we must suffer for the church. "In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." (Colossians 1:24).
(My random aside. Meditating on this passage brought me a lot of comfort while Bunny was in the NICU. Unlike St. Paul, I wasn't "rejoicing" that my newborn was the one slotted to have a serious birth defect that landed her in the NICU for 25 days--but I didn't lose my Faith in God during her stay, either.
Bunny was born with a complete blockage in her small intestine called "duodenal atresia." This is the reasoning I used to get myself to accept God's plan for her to be in pain in the NICU.
In the context of "making up for Christ's afflictions" Bunny's birth defect and her subsequent sufferings made sense.
God couldn't make his only son, Jesus, suffer duodenal atresia at his birth in Bethleham. Due to the limited nature of medical care in 1st Century Palestine, Jesus would have been dead within the first week. Jesus had to be born healthy enough to make it to age 33 so that he could carry the cross and die on it.
Duodenal atresia existed in Palestine,, it's existed since Adam and Eve first messed up the whole "no pain in childbirth thing." So God needed my bunny to happily carry that "duodenal atresia" cross for Christ.
Bunny showed the world that a wounded body does not separate a baby, or her family from the Love of Christ. Christ is there, in the midst of this specific birth defect called "duodenal atresia". Complete healing is even possible through prayer, and love, and great medical staff at Children's National Hospital (which I'm now even more convinced that the natural virtues of excellent medical care and the supernatural virtue of love go hand in hand after a NICU stay).
2 Verse two is from St. Peter "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13).
3. On the last end of the continuum is St. James "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kin, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).
Let me be clear, I do NOT meet St. Jame's standard yet of experiencing "pure joy" during suffering. But my husband and I like to tease each other and shout "PURE JOY" in a very loud, funny tone whenever the other one is complaining loudly about something trivial. I hope to reach your high threshold someday St. James, someday!
St. Paul, St. Peter and St. James, pray for us!