We all have a natural tendency to seek comfort and avoid suffering. This is especially true of children, who have limited delay-of-gratification skills, meaning that it’s difficult for them to not have what they want, right when they want it.

But suffering is a part of every life. Along with the good times, we also experience illness, hardships, disappointment and eventually death. The faith practices we observe during the season of Lent can help prepare our hearts and minds for the prospect of suffering in our lives.

Pope Benedict XVI was once asked by a young girl from Japan why people must suffer, as they did in her country during a catastrophic tsunami in 2011. He answered honestly, saying that he, too, had trouble understanding why suffering of this magnitude is present in the world. He then echoed the words of Pope John Paul II, explaining that one thing we can be certain about is that God is always on the side of the suffering.

Children’s experience of God’s presence often takes the form of their interactions with friends and family, and especially their parents. After all, God reveals himself as a parent, so all mothers and fathers are icons of God for the child. For this reason, it is important that they experience empathy from mom and dad, even when their suffering seems small by our standards. Reflecting their feelings by saying, “I know you’re frustrated that you can’t play outside today,” or “I’m sorry your stomach is hurting” lets them know that you care about them, and it helps give them the strength to bear their sufferings and build self-discipline.

Another lesson to hand on to our children is that suffering can have meaning because it is not the end of the story. The suffering of Jesus is transformed in the Resurrection. The Easter story is so very meaningful precisely because at the moment that all seemed lost, light broke forth. The one who was dead was alive again. In our human suffering, we have smaller, more everyday experiences of dying and rising as one ending gives rise to a new beginning or opportunity. We also see how suffering can be transformative in the way it can make us stronger and more determined.

Suffering also takes on an additional spiritual significance in light of our Catholic faith. God does not will suffering, but he can miraculously make good come from bad circumstances, just as he brought salvation from the suffering of Jesus. St. Paul refers to this in Colossians 1:24, as he points out that through offering our sufferings for the sake of others, we are joined to Christ’s redemptive work. This is what Catholic parents and grandparents of prior generations meant when they said, “Offer it up!” Offering our sufferings for the good of others can be a beautiful and meaningful thing.

God is with us, and all darkness, all mourning and every sorrow will one day disappear in the light of Christ.