Last night, after I woke up at 3:30am and couldn’t go back to sleep, I began thinking about how often I’ve heard people ask why God allows people to suffer. It’s been asked for centuries, and assuming Christ tarries, it will be asked for centuries to come. Honestly, I don’t understand how people who claim to read the Bible can not know the biblical answer to that. An entire old testament book was written with that subject in mind.
Job pleased God. When Satan approached the Lord, God told him that “[t]here is no one like [Job] on earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yet God allowed nearly everything that belonged to Job to be taken away or destroyed. Of course, Job wondered what he had done to displease God. His friends suggested that Job had done something to deserve the punishment of the Lord. “Those who plough iniquity and sow disaster, reap just that” (Job 4:8). But that was not the case at all. In Job’s anguish and distress, the Lord God spoke to Job. It was probably not the “answer” Job had been looking for, but it silenced him. The Lord proceeded to ask Job where he was during the creation of the earth. Who created the earth, and ordered it so that it continued to Job’s day? The Lord put Job in his place, in other words. Job’s reply: “My words have been frivolous: what can I reply? I had better lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:34). God wasn’t quite through questioning Job. By the time it was all over with, Job was saying that “[I] retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Basically, it came down to (as I paraphrase), “Who are you to even ask why you are suffering? Praise God in all things.”
The Catholic Church adds a new dimension to the suffering that we may endure. As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Even though enlightened by [Christ], faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test” (CCC 164). It goes on to say that the Virgin Mary “walked into the night of faith in sharing the darkness of her son’s suffering and death” (CCC 165). As a matter of fact, suffering can “[acquire] a new meaning; it [can become] a participation in the saving work of Jesus” (CCC 1521). Like Mary, we are able through a gift of the Holy Spirit, to unite our suffering with Christ’s. We are able to grow closer to Christ because of his and our suffering.
So our suffering does not have to be in vain. Even in the midst of our pain, we can have hope within us that God can and is still using us in this life. We can continue to offer God our prayers and thanksgiving for ourselves as well as for others. But most of all, we can at least begin to understand the depth of God’s love for us which he proved by his own suffering on the cross for us!