As I have grown in knowledge and wisdom, I have come to see that one of the reasons you and I and the rest of us who love God so much suffer so often is simple. It’s because we love God so much and are so close to Him that we are feeling just a little bit of what He feels all the time. He feels every single pain that every single human being has ever felt. He loves us enough to shield us from some of it, because we couldn’t handle it if we felt all that He feels. Our suffering allows us to feel only a small fraction of what He suffers.
Suffering didn’t have to exist. It exists because men sin. When men reject the love of God and choose to be selfish, they inflict suffering on others. Sin is allowed because God is love. In order for a man to be able to choose to love, he must also be able to choose not to love. Love with no choices is not love at all. However, God created the law of consequences so that men would be encouraged to choose to love instead of choosing not to love. When I choose to sin, I choose to cause others to suffer.
I will give you a perfect example from my own life. My son was born just two weeks before my 20th birthday, and he was my absolute pride and joy. However, at the time I was making a whole lot of choices that were not very loving to anyone. Oh, I told myself I was doing it because I wanted what was best for him, but in reality I was serving my own interests. How I made that little boy suffer!
It got bad enough for my son that he couldn’t take it anymore. At age 8, he was standing in my bedroom telling me not only that he was going to take his own life but exactly how he was going to do it. He even had a backup plan in case his first plan didn’t work. He was serious! I was devastated.
When I realized that my lifestyle choices and the way that I was living were causing my son so much suffering, it motivated me to re-evaluate my life from top to bottom. The suffering caused me to realize that something was broken in my life and I needed to fix it. That’s one of the four purposes of suffering - to instruct us by pointing out to us what we’re doing wrong.
As hard as it was for me, and for my son, to go through that experience, I am so glad that we did. If not for my son’s suffering, if not for my own, I would never have reached the point in my life where I am today. I would not be writing this to you, and I would probably still be the miserable and unhappy individual I was back then.
The bottom line is that God allows you and I to suffer because He loves us. Suffering is for our benefit, not our harm. It’s a hard truth to understand, and even more difficult to embrace, but this is the truth of the matter.
If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint. --St. Ignatius Loyola
Join me tomorrow for the next installment on Suffering: The Purposes of Suffering