Why is there suffering?

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You (St. Faustina, 187).

All around us is suffering. Books such as The Book of Job and “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” are written about it. We wonder, how can a good God allow suffering? Here is the answer. 

The most important event in the history of our salvation is the passion and death on the cross of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ. God wants us to focus on it and contemplate its significance. Why? When we understand it, the desire is ignited within us to start our journey home to live our lives in abundant and eternal happiness with our loving God and his family.  

God wrote the passion and death on the cross of his Son in the language of suffering. If we were illiterate in the language of suffering, we would not be able to understand Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. Therefore, God wants all of us without exception to become literate in the language of suffering. How? We become literate in the language of suffering by experiencing suffering ourselves and the suffering of others. Once we become literate in the language of suffering, God wants us to “read” the passion and death of his Son and understand its message. Its message that God loves us dearly triggers within us the desire to escape from godlessness to God. 

Therefore, the steps in the road to salvation are learn the language; read the message; respond. 

There would be no point for God to send his son through a gauntlet to deliver a message of love written in the language of suffering without first giving us language lessons so we could understand the message. Suffering is the Rosetta stone that unlocks the message of the passion and death on the cross of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Those who suffer are our language teachers. They teach us that a rational human being is naturally reluctant to dive headfirst or, for that matter, even dip his toe into the boiling cauldron of suffering. Suffering is absurd. Only the certifiably insane willingly do so. Jesus, himself a rational human being, was not happy about it, praying to our father, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done ... ” (Lk 22:42).  

Love hung on a cross because the meaning of a message written in suffering is unambiguous. Suffering is a language that all of us understand. Suffering is a price we only willingly pay for something that is extremely dear to us. The Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ, paid the price because we are extremely dear to him. Suffering is the seal that God affixed to his message of love to guarantee its veracity. 

Why not eliminate suffering entirely from God’s plan of salvation? Why not rewrite the plan? It was tried and did not work. Without suffering, the angels, Adam and Eve, excluded God from their lives and fell. Therefore, with the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, God is trying a different approach. 

An interesting, yet untested, corollary of this theory of suffering is that once we have learned the language of suffering, once we have read the message written in the language of suffering — that is, the passion and death of Jesus Christ — and once we have responded to it, there is no longer any need for suffering. We will have graduated from language school.  

Because God is not a sadist, the suffering ends because it is an evil without a purpose. A word to the wise is sufficient, right? 

John Bosco writes from New York.