One of the most reasonable arguments against God is the existence of suffering. The argument goes like this. Christians say God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing. If he truly is all-loving, then he’d prevent us from suffering. Since suffering exists, maybe he isn’t all-powerful so even if he loves us he can’t do anything about it. Or assuming he is all-powerful, maybe he really doesn’t know we are suffering, which is why he isn’t doing anything about it. Another reason could be maybe he is both all-powerful and all-knowing, but maybe he just doesn’t love us.
The logic is sound, and that can fool us into believing that 1) either God is not what we think he is, or 2) there is no God at all.
But we need to introduce a new idea. That is, we don’t know everything. We don’t have a mind like God’s so we can’t think like him. What if I suggest God allows suffering so we can exercise our love.
When Christ was asked what the greatest commandment is, he answered, “to love God and to love your neighbor. On these depends all the other commandments.” He also went on to give a command to “love one another as I have loved you.” Love then is so central to Christianity.
Suffering then is a chance for us to exercise this love. We show love when one is in need, or in pain, or in trouble. The suffering of others becomes an opportunity for us to love.
Love of spouse or children or girlfriend/boyfriend can be a fuzzy love sometimes. It is fuzzy in the sense that it brings us warm and cozy feelings. But when we love others who are suffering, it is no longer fuzzy; it is the giving up of our time, resources, and being. We look to Christ as our model who gave his life for us on the cross.
There is a documentary on Netflix entitled Footprints: the path of your life. It records nine young men, led by a priest, who walk the famous route that Saint James took to Spain. They suffered many grueling days, blistered feet, and treacherous weather all the way to Santiago de Compostela. At one point, the priest said something that spurred this article. He said, “A world without suffering is a world without compassion. I wouldn’t want to live in a world like that.”
So we may look at suffering with contempt, and that is normal for we are human after all. But we can also look at suffering in a supernatural way and see it as an occasion to show love and compassion. I like this second way; it gives much more meaning to our life.
Let us ask Mary to help us in the endeavor of showing love to others despite our own pain, the way she showed love to the apostles despite her own pain when she lost her beloved son.