From birth to death, pain is a common experience in life, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual. None of us is an expert in handling our pain, because we find ourselves suffering for reasons, we never expected. Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II writes: “Human suffering evokes compassion; it also evokes respect, and in its own way it intimidates. For in suffering is contained the greatness of specific mystery. This special respect for every form of human suffering must be set at the beginning … by the deepest need of the heart and also by the deep imperative of faith” (see his Apostolic Letter On Christian Meaning of Suffering, no.4).
The Pope continues to state that within each form of suffering, there arises an inevitable question “Why is this suffering”? It is a question about the cause, the reason, and the purpose of suffering. When this question is put to God, there arise frustrations and conflicts in our relationship with God, even sometimes to the extent of denying God (see the Apostolic Letter no.9).
The Book of Job in the Bible gives us a detailed explanation of how this question has found the most vivid expression. Job loses his possessions, his sons and daughters and finally, he himself is afflicted by a grave sickness. In this horrible situation, three of his old friends come to his house and each one tries to convince Job that he must have done something seriously wrong and so he has been struck with great suffering. According to Job’s friends, suffering strikes a person as a punishment for a crime. In their view, God repays good with good and evil with evil.
Even though Job’s friends are convinced that the suffering is justified for the evil committed by Job, Job challenges that he has not deserved such punishment, because he has done only the good in his life. In the end, God reproves Job’s friends for their accusations and recognizes that Job is not guilty. Being declared innocent, his suffering is to be seen as a mystery, which a human person is unable to penetrate completely by his/her own intelligence (see Pope John Paul II Apostolic Letter, … no.11).
Suffering helps us to understand how well-balanced and mature a person is to cope with difficult situations. Jesus Christ submitted himself to suffering, in order to teach us that love can overcome every kind of suffering. As Christians, we accept pain and suffering with the hope of future joy. Beyond our limit, we rely on the help of God that he will answer our prayers. Suffering is an occasion for us to show our spiritual maturity. This is how the Saints proved their greatness.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.