One of the most frequent questions, when we face difficulties and consequent suffering is, “Why does God allow evil and suffering? When things happen, that are not reasonable according to our judgement or when we face tragic situations and when we feel helpless, the question that naturally arises in our mind is “How can God permit this to me, when I believe in him so much? Why should good and all powerful God allow such evils to happen? Why should people, who are already burdened with life’s problems be forced to face an unexpected tragedy or natural disaster?” These questions lead people even to lose their faith. We question God, because we believe that he is the creator and the Lord of everything that happens (see Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, On the Christian Meaning of Suffering, no.9). Let us try to understand the meaning of suffering in the light of faith.
God created a world open to many possibilities. He created the humankind to inhabit it and to bring it to fulfilment through their abilities. Hence, God has given us intelligence, free will and talents to develop the world. Jesus explains this in the parable of the Talents (see Matthew 25:14-30). Each of us is given talents to use them and thus bear fruit by developing the world. Unfortunately, we abuse our freedom and choose to do what is wrong, often something evil and we are guilty.
Everything evil in the world comes from abuse of our freedom, destroying the work of God in ourselves, in others and in the world. In this way, we make our life and that of others miserable.
In his Apostolic Letter “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering”, Pope St. John Paul II explains the dignity and saving power of suffering. He deciphers three goods with the evils and suffering: First, suffering happens to us individually, but leads us to communion and solidarity; secondly, suffering is a temporal experience, meant to lead us to eternal life and thirdly, suffering is linked to hope and to love. He substantiates his view quoting the Apostle Paul: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, which is the Church…” (Colossians 1:24).
Pope St. John Paul II also pointed out that Christ does not explain the mystery of suffering but simply calls his disciples to take up their cross and to follow him. By following Christ, let us begin to understand the redemptive value of suffering.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V