Why do we suffer - why is there pain in this world... this is the age old
question and one which seems to beg the question of whether God, if He
exists, is really kind, the way people say He is.
That is if God is all
knowing, He would know about evil. If He is all Powerful, He could do
something about evil. And if He is All Loving he would want to stop evil.
While God does not create evil, He does permit it. Why?
The short answer is: "So He can bring a greater good out of it" (Fr
The longer answer is: In creating the universe, God is creating a work
of art. All art has the contrast of dark elements and light elements.
"God is like an artist. His Canvas is all space, all
time. We see a very tiny part of God's art. What is He making?
He's making something beautiful. Beautiful sculptures, novels, films
involve an interplay between dark and light. It's this which often makes
the movie or play intriguing. God in His Work of Art permits evil. Evil
is not an entity in and as itself - but rather Evil is a lack, a
privation of being. When you have a toothache, there is something
missing in the health of your tooth. When someone is blind, there is
something missing in their ocular apparatus. At the end of life, we will
see that whole picture and it will make sense but what we see now is
such a tiny bit - that's why it doesn't make sense"
Fr Robert Barron,
is there disorder in the Universe?" (video)
Three basic things CAUSE
pain and suffering:
- As a result of our own sins : sin which
rips apart the fabric of Divine Providence or God's perfect plan would,
by definition causes the sinner, suffering.
- As a result of the sins of others: Unfortunately
sin does not only bring suffering and pain to the person who committed
the sin but to many people around the sinner and sometimes to people who
don't even know the sinner.
"The sins of the parents are laid upon the children and the
- As a result of environmental events and factors -
for example, hurricanes, floods and fire cause human suffering as does
disease. Aging can also cause suffering
God allows us to suffer for the following reasons:
- To make us aware of our need for God and to draw us closer to
Him: Many people have stated that illness and suffering
caused them to increase in spirituality and thus the catastrophic event
(like cancer etc) was a positive event in their lives. It is well
known that privation teaches us far more than easy times. Often it is
while in bed, ill, that we find the time to pray more.
Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world! Without those painful experiences
would not we be shallow selfish beings? Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, head of
the human genome project.
- To help us to minister to others for unless we have
been through something similar to what they are suffering, we will find
it difficult to empathize with them.
- To allow God to make us stronger so we can withstand the
trials of life better. The world considers sacrifice in
order to make more money a worthy pursuit. It is well known that any
worthy pursuit is not obtained without a certain amount of pain.
- To give us the opportunity to allow God to help us love others
unconditionally (i.e. for example when we suffer as a result of
the sins of others, we can ask God to make it OK for us and the sinner)
- A few selected individuals who in this life have achieved a
special closeness with God are asked by God to suffer as a prayer to
help others - this type of suffering is called "redemptive
suffering" and is reminiscent of how Jesus died for us. Jesus told
us we were His Hands and His Feet. An example of redemptive suffering
was the privation and illness that Pope John Paul II suffered for
several years toward the end of his life. NOTE: most of us are NOT
called to "redemptive suffering".
All suffering is not, of itself, helpful. We must turn it over to
God and "God will make all good for those who love Him".
Bishop Sheen said it well "Suffering is like a blank check... worthless
unless signed by the Hand of God"
Resource: Fr Robert Spitzer, SJ:
Healing the Culture
Fulton Sheen "Life is Worth Living"
Bishop Sheen's last Good Friday homily, 1979 (video)
Collins: "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
(Free Press, 2006)
Fr John Corapi
Is suffering a punishment?
a word, "no". In fact, since God allowed HIS MOST BELOVED PEOPLE,
the saints to suffer immensely, most from childhood on, with sickness,
poverty and humiliation, if we have suffering in OUR LIVES, we can take
that as a compliment. You see it would be MUCH EASIER for God to just
allow us to flow with the world because if we are talented people and can
easily get acclaim for what we do, then God has to go through no small
amount of work to ruin that for us so we end up with humiliation and
poverty. And he does that for ONLY ONE REASON. Because it is in
humiliation and poverty that we can REALLY SEE God and of course, seeing
God is the only real happiness in this life and the next.
Fame ----> lead to pride which fools us into thinking WE are gods and
leads us AWAY from the Consolation of God
Poverty ---> Obscurity and
Humiliation ----> lead to humility in which we know that we are TOTALLY
dependent on God. It is in humility that we really can see God and if we
can see God, that is the ultimate happiness in life.
Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola