Back in June, I was deep in thought about how those of us with infertility impact the larger community of the Church, and how the Church can support us. When I went to daily Mass and heard the readings for the day, I was astonished. There were so many answers to my questions found within the readings; it was clear that God had a lot to say about the topic! So today I want to unpack these readings and share my thoughts with you.

Let’s start by looking at the first reading, which was from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1-7). His greeting ends with, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). These are some impressive descriptors for God the Father: father of compassion and God of all encouragement.

Sometimes in the midst of my suffering, it feels like God is distant and uninterested, but that is not true. As St. Paul says, the Father Himself encourages us in our every affliction. When I am experiencing the pain of my infertility, I can know that God the Father is near and wants to encourage me, but not just for my own encouragement. He wants me to be able to turn to the next person walking through infertility to encourage them as well. The psalm for the day emphasized this idea, too, by saying, “Let my soul glory in the LORD; the lowly will hear me and be glad” (psalm 34:3). Sometimes I am that lowly person who needs to hear another glorifying the Lord, and other times I am the one giving Him glory.

When we share what God is doing in our lives, we make this possible. Our own encouragement in this journey overflows from us and fills others. By sharing our highs and lows and giving others the opportunity to share their highs and lows with us, we are opening up the pathways for this encouragement from God to flow. God wants to encourage us through one another, so let us make these words from the psalmist our own, “Glorify the LORD with me, let us together extol his name” (Psalm 34:4). If God speaks and comforts our hearts, let’s share with others! If we’re having a rough day, let’s allow others to lift us up and help us to extol His name.

“For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow” (2 Corinthians 1:5). Here we see the origin of our suffering. It is Christ’s suffering, which He took on for us that overflows to us. If the image of picking up your cross and following Jesus has never struck you, perhaps the image of Christ’s suffering overflowing might resonate. But these sufferings do not just pass onto us and then leave us in anguish. No, they are accompanied by an overflow of the encouragement we’ve been talking about, too.

So, why do we suffer in the first place? St. Paul says, “if we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer” (2 Corinthians 1:6). Our narrow vision sees the suffering that lays before us, but God has so much more in mind, like our encouragement and salvation! Encouragement to help us endure our suffering and suffering for our salvation. God knows when we are suffering, and he gives us everything we need to endure it, as is echoed in the psalm, “When the poor one called out, the LORD heard, and from all his distress he saved him” (psalm 34:7). God saves us in our suffering, too.

The first reading ends with St. Paul saying, “Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement” (2 Corinthians 1:7). Our sufferings are a sign of the encouragement we share, and they are a sign of something else: how blessed we are. Jesus emphasizes this Himself in the Gospel reading for the day, which is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).

No matter how or why I’m suffering on a given day, I can relate to at least one of these blessed groups. I often find myself relating to “they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Regardless of which group you relate to in your suffering, the end result is the same: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12). So not only does God help us through our sufferings and afflictions with His encouragement, He also tells us to rejoice in the midst of suffering. One of the best ways I’ve learned to do this is by seeing how others rejoice in their sufferings. If you can think of no examples from the people surrounding you, turn to the saints.

While St. Maximilian Kolbe was dying in a starvation chamber at Auschwitz, you could hear him leading the nine other prisoners in joyful song from the other side of the door. This great saint has given us a beautiful example of everything we’ve just unpacked today. He was aware of God’s presence in the midst of evil and suffering, he invited others to extol and praise God, and he lifted and encouraged the spirits of those dying with him. Surely his example can encourage us to bear our crosses of infertility in a way that fosters joy within us and in others.

There will always be some form of suffering on this side of Heaven. Come, Holy Spirit, and remind our hearts that this suffering helps to bring about our salvation!

Amy Ambrose and her family live in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where you’ll find them tending to their ever-growing garden, reading at the library, or yelling for one another to come check out the view of the sunset.