Offer It Up

Blog Published: November 10, 2009
By Sister Julie

Picture this: you’re going through a difficult time, you’ve got a lot on your mind, you just can’t seem to make sense of stuff. Then someone says it, that dreadful line: “Offer it up.”

If you are like me (admittedly, not my most admirable quality) you have to suppress an overwhelming desire to take a swing at the person.

To me, “offer it up” is not exactly the most compassionate thing a person can say when another is in a tough space. In fact, sometimes it rings of a kind of dismissal, an unwillingness to be with a person in their struggle, even if only in silent vigil.

Though not fond of this line, I found it was exactly the one that came to mind this morning as I read Saint Teresa of Avila. As mentioned before, I’m re-reading The Life as translated by Mirabai Starr in Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life and am at a significant moment in Teresa’s life where she has a conversion. Teresa writes about how difficult prayer has been for her. “By now, my poor soul had grown weary. But no matter how much she wished she could rest, the bad habits I had developed would not let her” (p. 58). Teresa speaks of losing trust in herself, of being unable to imagine Christ in prayer, of having distracting thoughts that would torment her, of being plagued with doubts. “I slid back so many times that I was exhausted” (p. 59).

Teresa was indeed in a tough space. So what did she do?

She offered it up.

In this tough space Teresa gave to God all that she had — not successes or insights or any kind of “worthiness” — but the only things she felt she had left: her fears, her doubts, her temptations, her “deep soul-weariness”.

To God she offered them.

There is real wisdom in Teresa’s experience. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have a whole heck of a lot going for ourselves. We struggle, we deal with pain, we despair, we worry, we just don’t feel like engaging anymore. God does not ask us to give that which we don’t have. In these times, God doesn’t expect us to offer perfectly manicured prayers, devout thoughts, or deeds of righteousness. What God asks us for is who we are and what we do have. We can offer to God as a gift our pain, despair, worry, and struggle. Doing so is not abnegating responsibility or expecting that it will all magically go away. Rather, offering these our gifts is an opportunity to open the door to God, to God’s love and deep compassion. It is a chance to move beyond the impasse we experience in our life and become ourselves more fully.

“O God, help me! How a soul suffers when she loses the freedom to be who she truly is. What torment she endures. I am amazed to see that I survived such pain. Praise be to God, who gave me life when I was on the brink of such a deadly death.”

What comes to mind as you hear the words “offer it up” and as you hear Teresa’s experience? What’s the hardest part of “offering it up”? What’s happened for you when you’ve tried to offer up your own tough situations?

Archived Comments

Another Sister Julie, CSSF November 10, 2009 at 11:24 am

Oh, those dreaded three words! I’m with you, Sister Julie, in my humanity in that I’d rather complain about suffering through something or someone, then take a swing at anyone who then utters that phrase. Then my spiritual side comes to fore and reminds me of Col. 1:24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church

I guess saints are people who have successfully integrated their humanity with their spirtual selves??

Jeannie November 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I had never before thought of offering up my pain and sufferings as prayers of thanks and praise until I read an article in “The word among us” about thanking God for everything, including pain and hardships during adoration. What a truly liberating feeling. Yet to me even these seemed insignificant and unworthy. I am always reminded when about to complain that there is always someone who is having more trouble/pain/suffering than me and to be mindful of my blessings. Even when my life seemed so dark that I could not see the light of Christ, I always remembered my mother. Offer it up? I am still trying to figure out who I am to offer. I realize that this comes with time and that even through my doubts and fears, God knows who I am and where I am and He accepts me and loves me and will patiently wait until the day I am ready to “offer it up”.

Ronda November 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I was thinking about this very subject just a little while ago and I had this most amazing thought. What if I take my “suffering”, say a headache, and “offer it up” so that someone else does not need to suffer a headache? I don’t know that this is the connotation you are using for this, but it does bring me peace.

Amparo November 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

You know? language here is a real obstacle… When I begun reading the article I though “What on Earth is this nun talking about!?” because, those three words just like that didn’t mean absolutely anything to me, in fact, I had never heard them before. Then I finished reading the post and could finally understand what you were talking about, in spanish we say “Ofrecelo en oración”. And, yes, they are indeed very unwelcomed words for me, but why? because I find it so difficult, when I’m having a problem, to offer it to God just like that, because I tend to be in a bad humor and only want fast solutions. But when you read Theresa’s experience it suddenly turns into a brighter colur, doesn’t it? I mean, He loves us and knows us more that anyone in the whole world, so, who but He would be more appropiate to go to in those situations… Beautiful topic Sister… just beautiful, it’s given me a lot to think about… Thanks for sharing!

sarah November 10, 2009 at 9:03 pm

It is helping me understand that as I tell my parents that I have been told that I could apply to enter the Dominicans of Mary, It may be a cross I will have to endure,but it is all worthy for Christ. In doing so my parents might see my real happiness and light. God is telling me to go ahead,but it is scary. My parents are both Presbyterian and do not understand why anyone would leave their family to enter religious life. My heart wants so much to surrender my fears,but I need to Offer it Up,so that I can take the next step. The Lord will be at my side as I take up his cross and follow him. I did not think going on this retreat was going to lead me to this,but God is full of surprises and will never do what we expect. I pray for all of those discerning vocations and that their families will except their vocation. God Bless

patty reibach November 10, 2009 at 11:14 pm

My mother used to say that to me when I was little….and I remember that they rang hollow in my ears until recently. I didn’t get it. I mean I got it but I didn’t ‘get it’. Until you are humbled way down to almost nothing, it can be hard to understand. I can see how saying the words makes one come across as insensitive and callous. But now, when I hear them, I am gently reminded that my sorrows are nothing compared to those of others, and especially those of my Lord during His Passion. I am selective in who I can say them to, and am honored when someone feels like they can say them to me.

Robyn November 11, 2009 at 2:28 am

I think about this as not “offering it up” but “being in it”. I struggled with a very painful genetic condition for years (currently in remission) and each time the pain came, I tried to allow myself to pray in it – praying through it, and allowing the pain and suffering itself to be my prayer. I used to think a lot about the agony of Jesus on the cross, and the agony of his mother and friends as they watched him die. I couldn’t pray words as I didn’t have any and often wasn’t conscious enough to pray with words (amazing how significant pain messes with your mind, whether or not you’re on painkillers!) but I tried to use the experience as a way of identifying with the crucifixion. I was never very good at it, but it did help me bear the pain. I also tried to let my pain be an identification with all those others in pain and weakness. Again, not very good at this either! This also works when it’s not physical pain, but emotional and spiritual. It’s really hard to do though…

Jeannie November 11, 2009 at 8:20 am

Wow Robyn, Your story really touched me. Thank-you for sharing.

Redbud November 11, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I agree with you Sister Julie! Offer it up can be like someone saying “let it go” when you are struggling with something. You don’t feel heard or understood. This is the first time I have heard “offer it up” explained as it relates to giving God our struggles or pain as a gift because that is all we have at that moment. What a beautiful sentiment! Thank you as always for sharing your feelings so honestly (I loved the part about wanting to take a swing – we can all relate!) and for your great insight. I have not posted anything for awhile, but still stop by A Nun’s Life most days! It is like an oasis of peace for me.

GilChrist77 November 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Wow, Sarah, you are doing so much better at offering up your cross then I am at offering up mine. I was at the same retreat as Sarah and instead of being told I could have my papers (which is what I was planning on having happen ) I was told that I need to wait a year. I’m totally at peace with it because I know that I’m really not ready and I know I’m doing God’s will but I really don’t want to do it. But at the same time, I’m really looking forward to this year, I just sent an email asking for application papers to NET ( and am going to start applying to colleges and I have no idea where I’m going to end up or where I’m going to find the money but I’m just looking at this as a crazy adventure.

rosebud November 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I’ve heard the expression “offer it up” many times. I have never felt it to be useful at all. It always just seemed like something quaint, pious and even patronizing to say to someone. To me, the implication from the other person is that he/she believes him/herself to be so holy, special and trusting a person that he/she can simply and effortlessly transfer all his/her pain to God, God will always take it without any questions asked, and he/she will magically be freed from that which ails him/her. Because it never worked for me, the whole thing makes me feel spiritually deficient. And maybe I am. Who knows? I can’t imagine actually being able to give God my burdens thus removing them from my own shoulders. And I don’t believe that my suffering will help take away the suffering of others. And that whole concept of giving God my suffering as a “gift” doesn’t mesh with me either. I suppose I could philosphize the whole little thing into a pretty, little package that I convince myself is quite generous. But honestly, giving someone something you don’t want is not usually seen as meritorious. God accepting it, of course, is. However, if any of this works for you all, I say go for it! I am realistic enough to know I don’t know it all – not even close!

What I found interesting is the comment Sr. Julie wrote stating that suffering, and the prayer that may arise out of it, can open the door to God’s love. That seems true to me. Thanks for that insight.

Sr. Julie CSSF quoted, ” …I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ …” that has been quoted to me a million times. And it still has never clicked. Any insights?

Jack November 12, 2009 at 1:14 am

Most of my day is spent offering up my troubles for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. You would think it would be cleared out by now.

I actually take a great deal of comfort in those three words. “Offer it up.” It’s a little way of me telling myself that somebody has it worse than I do.

Dottie November 16, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I am 59 years old now. When I was a young girl my grandmother always said lovingly with a smile “offer it up”. Her explaination was that all of our pain and suffering is offered to God. We ask Him to use it for the benifit of others. To use it as He wills. So, my whole life everything when I suffer illness,or other situations that are painful to me I just simply offer it up! My grandmother was wise and so loving and my inspiration! I thank God for the gift of my grandmother and her wisdom she shared with me.

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