When we are in pain, suffering appears to have no real purpose. Why would a loving God allow so many agonizing situations to occur in the world? It may be easy to give the theological answers. “Just look at the cross,” well-meaning friends, family or even clergy may tell us. The Lord redeemed the world through his suffering, death, and resurrection. While those things are true, when we are in great pain they can also seem like quick answers to what are much more difficult and painful questions.
Does God cause anguish or just allow it (and who really cares)? When you are in a time of great challenge, it may seem trite to argue whether the Lord causes suffering or allows it. We just want the pain to end! In fact, the “normal” spiritual answers can even cause us to feel additional anger. “God is all-powerful,” one of my kids once said. “Why doesn’t he just fix this?”
When we are wounded, despair comes easily, but the opposite of despair is hope. Hope comes from the Lord and that is how we will ultimately find joy even when we struggle.
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The challenge for us is to look at our obstacles in a new way and to find the promises and gifts hidden within. It is difficult to take ownership for any part of our own suffering, although doing so may be a good first step to untangling the knots we find there.
The theological reasons for sorrow seem simple (if not satisfying) enough. The cost of the fall, the wage of sin, is suffering. God’s ways are not our ways and it is difficult to see the big picture that he has planned for us. These reasons can actually frustrate us more when we are hurting.
This excerpt from The Joy-Filled Broken Heart begins to look at the problem and frustrations that we can experience when suffering. I discovered similar patterns when interviewing divorced Catholics for The Three Things Divorced Catholics Need to Know. Quoting Catholic teaching on suffering often falls short when people are actually experiencing it. Acknowledging their struggles . . . remembering that Jesus cried when Lazarus died . . . and being present to those in a particular agony may be the most effective way to minister to them, demonstrating the love Christ has for them.
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Copyright 2017 Mary Lou Rosien
About the Author
Mary Lou Rosien is a Catholic wife, mom to seven, educator, writer, and speaker. She is the author of several books including Three Things Divorced Catholics need to Know and The Joy-Filled Broken Heart. She is known for her love of all things cooking and baking, especially “Friday cookies.” Visit her at CatholicFamilyBootCamp.com.