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Kimberly Andrich reviews a new resource from Fr. Christopher Mahar and Pauline Books and Media about the value and meaning of human suffering. 

Every so often, as I give her a hug and tuck her into bed, my daughter looks up and asks me, “Why do I need to be sick?” It breaks my heart to hear her ask this question.  
I give her simple, age-appropriate answers. “God uses your illness to draw you to Himself. He uses it to help you to turn to Him more and grow in faith and holiness.” 
Over time, I’ll want to give her more detailed and in-depth explanations than that, and I want to be ready when that time comes.  
The truth is that suffering touches each of us at some time or another, and when it does hit, it can be extremely painful. It affects us, as individuals, as families, and as a society, in many deep and heart-wrenching ways. It often feels like it’s going to tear us apart. We look to Heaven and beg God to heal us or to fix what is happening.  
Many people have asked why God allows suffering. Some have gone so far as to challenge God’s existence, demanding an answer to the question as to why a good, loving God would allow innocent people to suffer.  
Though the Christian meaning of suffering is and always will be a mystery, knowing something about God’s purpose for it and about how Christ shows up for us within it helps to greatly lessen its sting. 
As a person who has suffered, I can attest to God’s goodness and faithfulness within the cross. He is indeed there with us, walking with us every step of the way. He has walked the way ahead of us, suffering for us and redeeming suffering, both His and ours. He infuses our suffering with meaning, giving us assurance that it is not without purpose or merit when we unite it to His. 
Fr. Christopher Mahar can also attest to God’s goodness and faithfulness within suffering. In fact, he does so in his new book, Finding God in Suffering.  


Finding God in Suffering

Finding God in Suffering is a pastoral resource that gives an in-depth explanation of Christian suffering – in particular the why and the how of suffering. 
Fr. Mahar uses as his base St. John Paul II’s beautiful apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering) and adds his own reflections and experiences from nearly twenty years as a Catholic priest, as well as numerous Scriptural references, writings of the saints and Church doctors, and references to both history and literature. Through his writing this way, the reader gets a taste of Pope John Paul II’s genius alongside further explanation, examples, Scripture, and saintly reflections. 
Within the book, there are very many places that naturally invite the reader to reflect. Fr. Mahar also includes reflection questions to aid in relating one’s own suffering to the chapter, as well as a short prayer at the end of each chapter to aid in drawing the heart to God. At the end of the book, he provides fifteen pages of Scripture references to pray with as well as several beautiful prayers and a full Way of the Cross.  
This book is an excellent buy if you or someone you know is looking for a more detailed or theological explanation of suffering from a Catholic perspective. It can be great for priests, religious, or laity who minister to those who suffer. It can also be helpful to those who have been suffering for some time and want reflection material to deepen their own sense of purpose in their suffering, or to more deeply unite their suffering with that of Christ. I would generally not recommend this book for people whose suffering is new or who are feeling their suffering very acutely, for this book is more theological than it is sentimental or directly comforting. 
The reader finishes this book with a sense that not only is there a reason that God allows suffering but that suffering is greatly valuable to Him and to us in His work of continual redemption of individuals and of the human race and in His work of transformative union with us. And, far from being helpless in our suffering, we have a great gift in that we can bear our suffering and give back to God through our participation in the cross. 

Ask for Finding God in Suffering at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, Pauline Books & Media.



Copyright 2023 Kimberly Andrich
Images: Canva