Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lumen Fidei #22: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

From #57: To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.
In my time as a nursing assistant and later as a chaplain intern, I was asked many times why is there suffering. It came up in many of my classes. I even had one class that dedicated a semester completely do that question in college.

The best I can say is that no one answer is going to work for every person in every situation. If someone who is suffering asks you "Why?" there is no answer you can give that will help them. The best you can do is, if appropriate, help them find an answer themselves and listen to them.

One thing I appreciate about Christianity is that it offers something more than an answer. It offers a God who knows all about suffering and who cares about each and every one of us deeply. Jesus Christ died abandoned by his friends in one of the most horrifying ways imaginable (likely asphyxiation). During his life, he suffered all the pains we do. Friends of his died, notably Lazarus. He lived far from home as he traveled preaching. He felt hunger, he felt thirst, and I'm sure he felt all the other aches and pains that we do.

So when we come to him in our suffering, he understands us intimately. He's been there. He might not be able to tell us why we are suffering, but he can be present to us in our suffering.

This is the last installment in a series of posts reflecting on quotes from Pope Francis' first encyclical. It's been fun and given my background, I think it's very appropriate that we ended with a post about the meaning of suffering. If you want to read more, visit here.

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