Why does God permit suffering?

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Suffering–everyone seems to have their share. It’s a tremendous mystery in our Christian life. Why does God send/permit suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Our human minds cannot comprehend. In today’s first reading Job is near despair. Notice I said near. The entire Book of Job tells of a righteous man, faithful to God, who had a wonderful family, good health, and a fair amount of wealth. Suddenly he loses everything. He is alone. Well meaning friends try to get him to admit what sin he has committed, for in those times it was believed that such misfortune happened only to those who had sinned grievously. But Job, despite his pain and suffering, remained steadfast in his faith.

Jesus, in His time heals. He “turns around the suffering” and makes well again so many of the people who are brought to Him. But note: The scripture says “He cured many.” It does not say all. Recently I began reading a great little booklet distributed by the Sacred Heart League. It is a collection of essays that does not purport, by any means, to explain our sufferings, but it does give us a different perspective on them.

A particularly beneficial one (in my opinion,) written by Rev. David Knight, discusses how many feel since Jesus is our Savior. He should save us from all pain and suffering. But that is not the type of Savior He is. He came into the world enduring evil with love and anyone who expects salvation must do the same. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must take up his cross and follow Me.”

Fr. Knight says: “If we are going to grow in our ability not only to accept Jesus as Savior, but to rejoice in the salvation He gives and even to embrace the cross with love, there are four things we should keep in mind.

First: God does not send suffering, but He does allow it. God does not want His people to suffer. There are natural forces which cause sickness, pain, and suffering. But whatever the source, God wants us to find a way to alleviate those things so that no one will suffer again. Whatever people can do to alleviate suffering for their fellow humans is one of the projects God wants us all to work on with love. Other sufferings are caused by people’s failure to love one another. God gave each of us free will. He will not take that free will away from us. Why does God permit suffering? A better question might be: Why did God make us free to choose our actions?

Second: Jesus did not promise to spare His followers pain, but He does promise it can never harm us. He never granted “immunity” to those who follow Him. What He did promise was to give us the grace to turn every evil into good by loving back in response to the evil. Fr. Knight says “The only thing that can truly harm us is hate.”

Third: Our feelings do not diminish our love. It is not always possible even with grace to feel love and forgiveness for another. But love is in the will, by what we chose to desire. Our model is Jesus at His agony in the Garden. Jesus did not feel like going to the cross, but “not My will but Yours be done.”

Fourth: “To endure evil with love” can mean two things. It can mean we, ourselves, love back in response to evil or it can mean that we endure evil with the help of the love we receive from others. God does not want anyone to carry their cross alone. He is with us and He wants us to be there for one another. When the day comes that no person on earth will have to suffer alone, when every suffering person finds others pouring out their comfort, support and love, then the salvation Jesus came to give will be experienced as the wisdom and power of God.

Linda Caminiti