MYSTERY OF SUFFERING
Kathy Bernard - Publisher
"Dear friends, dont be surprised at
the fiery trials you are going through, as if
something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad
for these trials make
you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy
of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. - 1 Peter 4: 12-13.
is a story in Aesop's Fables about a man who was oppressed with life's
heavy trials and sufferings. So overburdened with the weight of his problems, he
grew tired and hopeless and decided to throw down his load and cried out for death to take
him. When Death appeared he asked, "Did you call me? What do you
The man began to be frightened and said to Death with a weary smile,
"Please sir, will you kindly help me lift my burden of suffering onto my
shoulders? I think I will be able to carry it now."
This is how some of us feel when we are overwhelmed by life. It does not matter what our walk is, we all are
beset with the tribulations that come to us. No
man, rich or poor, stands alone in lifes miseries.
At the beginning of the world, suffering and sorrow did not exist. When God created man upon this earth, there was no
sin, suffering, or death. God wanted us to
live free of everyday burdens. But, through
the free will God gave, mans suffering was introduced to all of us when we chose
Satan over Almighty God. Because of this, our
sorrows are a consequence of that sin against God. Although
He says, " For the wages of sin is
death;" He also promises to give the gift of Gods (His)
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior if we accept it.- Romans
Father Jess Testa
attended Northwestern University, John Marshall Law School, and obtained his M.Div.
from Sacred Heart School of Theology in 1988.
He says of suffering, We know that there is suffering in the world.
This cannot be denied. The question always seems to arise, "How do we reconcile all
the suffering in the world with a God of love?"
There is NO satisfactory answer that will satisfy ALL people. In all humility I
must admit this is a feeble attempt to try. First we must start with some givens and then
work from there. The givens,(1) God did not intend for us to suffer. We were created to
enjoy everlasting happiness with Him for all eternity. (2) Suffering entered the world as
a result of sin...original sin. (3) If we live long enough, ALL people will have a cross
at some point in their life. An illness of a loved one or oneself, death of a loved one,
etc. There is NO escape from the cross. (4) Any cross that may come our way, God will send
us the graces to endure. With those four things as a given we can proceed. We
suffer on account of the existence of evil. Evil is a distortion of good. So, now we know
why the existence of suffering.. evil. That does not mean that God punishes us for
something we did wrong here. A person does not go blind because they sinned, as an
example. (which was the view of many people in Scripture).
"How is one to cope with suffering? As stated above NO ONE escapes the cross.
It is what we do with it that will either crush us or help us to grow. We know of the existence
of God but suffering can cloud our wisdom and vision at times. As a result of suffering
some may deny the existence of God or say God does not love me (false). We are
speaking here of faith - STRONG FAITH." The above
is taken in part from a previous article published several years ago in A
CatholicView. For reading in
full, use this link: Father Jess - The
Meaning of Suffering.
writes, "Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God." Even
though trials and tribulations are heavy loads to carry, we move in faith, knowing that
all our suffering hones and refines us to acknowledge and accept that we need only one
thing to endure; and that is the strength of Jesus Christ to help us carry our
Father Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M., is a professor of Old Testament, Semitic
Languages and Biblical Spirituality at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley,
California . He wrote an article titled "Why Do We Suffer?"
and states, Earthquakes, hurricanes,
tsunamis. wars, accidents, sickness and death, natural disasters and those produced by
human error or malice bring with them so much suffering.
Some of the earliest literature known in history, from Egypt and Mesopotamia,
attests that even then people called out, Why? In the lament
psalms of the Bible, the psalmist, too, cries out, Why, Lord?
(Psalm10:1). Our voices join an age-old chorus!
The problem of suffering is a difficult one. How can we understand the
justice and goodness of God in the face of so much broken human experience?
"Perhaps the best example in the Bible of such a struggle is found in the Book of
Job. Job suffers the loss of possessions and family, and is afflicted with a
terrible disease. Three friends hear of his plight and come to console him.
After Jobs cry of pain (Job, Ch. 3), the discussion begins. Why is Job suffering? One easy answer that
surfaces right away is that Job deserves it, that he is suffering because of his sins (see
4:7-19; 11:4-6). When Job rejects this explanation, his friends counter, in effect,
Dont give us that! All humans are
rotten sinners! For them, there is no
such thing as an innocent sufferer. All
suffering is somehow a punishment for sin. Sad
to say, Jobs friends have vocal descendants down to our present day. While it is true that our sinful actions can and
do have consequences, as an all-purpose explanation, this one is far too simplistic.
"Even within the Book of Job, the situation is more complicated. We, the
readers, know right from the start that the friends are wrong here. Job is
righteous, and his suffering is allowed by God in order to test his virtue (Ch. 1-2).
Other answers also appear in the book. Like any good ancient Near Eastern father,
God disciplines us through suffering to make us better (5:17-18; 36:15; see also Proverbs
3:11-12). Or, suffering is mysterious, and who are we to understand Gods ways?
"Although these responses may give some temporary relief, ultimately they are not
terribly satisfactory as answers to the meaning of suffering. While we do seek to
understand, perhaps this is not the best way to approach the problem. In fact, maybe
the problem with suffering is that ultimately it is not really a problem at
all. It is, rather, a mystery.
"What is the difference? A problem is something out there. We
can see all the pieces; we can survey all its dimensions. The question is, how do
we put it together? How do we solve it? Problems are solved on the
intellectual level. A mystery, on the other hand, is quite different. It is a
situation in which I, as a unique human being, am so immersed, am so surrounded, that I
can never get far enough away to see it all out there. Love is a mystery; so
is death. And so is suffering. Mysteries
involve us on the deepest personal level of our relationships with ourselves, with others,
with the natural world and with God. To be human is to be enmeshed in these
relationships. When they grow into greater wholeness (through love) or when they
come apart (through suffering), we are in the presence of mystery. We will never
solve the meaning of suffering any more than we will solve the
meaning of love.
"Something more important remains to be said. At the heart of our Christian
faith is the affirmation that in and through the Incarnation, Jesus has entered into these
relationships as well. Jesus shared fully in our human condition. And when He faced
His suffering and death, He too called out, Why? His final words from
the cross were, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Mark 15:34;
Matt 27:46; citing the opening verse of Psalm 22). We know that God did not forsake
Jesus but raised Him up in and by the Spirit of love to everlasting resurrection-life.
"Nowhere in Scripture do we read, Have faith in Me, and you will understand
all things, including [or, especially] suffering! But we do read, whatever the
suffering, Do not be afraid, for I am with you. We do not suffer
alone. Together, we will survive all suffering, even death itself!"
C.S. Lewis, author and Oxford scholar once said, God whispers to us in our
pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse
a deaf world. Romans 3:5 tells
us, We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that
they help us develop endurance. And
endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of
salvation. And this hope will not lead
to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy
Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. And James 1:2-3 relates, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles
come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow
Hebrews 12: 5-7, "Do not lose courage when you are punished, for the Lord disciplines
whom He loves. The Lord loves each one of us more than we love ourselves, and will only
permit suffering if it brings about our salvation.
And so, we must
not be surprised when faced with suffering for it allows us to be identified as Christians
if we persevere with dignity and strong faith in God.
One glorious day we will shrug off this earth's torn and tattered mantle of
suffering and put on the everlasting robe of Gods peace. Alleluia!
" Dont worry about
anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need,
and thank him for all He has done. Then you
will experience Gods peace, which
exceeds anything we can understand. His peace
will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus."
- Philippians 4:6-7.
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