God and Suffering

In light of the recent tragedies that have befallen our country (Sinai fire tragedy, and the deaths from the illicit brews) one begins to wonder what the victims’ families are experiencing at this time. For one who has not lost a close relative (in such a tragic manner) it is a bit difficult to identify with they are experiencing, more so considering that some of these tragedies could have been avoided.

I know of a lady who recently suffered the misfortune of losing her son, a bright young man fresh from college. When we went to console the family, we were surprised to find them calm, composed and peaceful, exuding a sort of inner joy. At the end of it all the mother was the one consoling us assuring us that it was God’s will for her son. Later on during the young man’s funeral service, the family’s spirit was still much the same.

John Paul II in his Encyclical letter ‘Fides et Ratio – Faith and Reason,’ states that it is only in God that we can find meaning in suffering. Dominique Lappierre in his book A Thousand Suns refers to the city of Calcutta (where the poorest of the poor are found) as the City of Joy. He says that amongst these people living in the most abject poverty, he found more toothless smiles than in his home country, France.

So then, is God who is so loving and infinite Goodness, willing to subject his children to such levels of pain and suffering, and if so, why? Perhaps He does. He will also however not interfere with the freedom he has given man. Nevertheless, even with such levels of suffering men and women have still been able to find joy.

Hinduism with its caste societal formation encourages some men and women – the so-called untouchables – who are destined to be slaves from birth to persevere in their suffering with the promise of a better life after their re-incarnation. Here, within faith, some are able to discover consolation.

Christianity also gives the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The latter suffered greatly in the world but was later to be rewarded with a happy eternal life. The former was to suffer misfortune in the afterlife. Our Lord himself assures us that those who die with him shall share also in his resurrection.

Thus suffering looked at in the context of faith becomes not only bearable but brings along with it a certain inner peace and joy owing to the hope of resurrection promised.

Jesus’ message offers to the afflicted, consolation which tempers the bitterness of their tears in a world where suffering is a law of life. In Christ’s School, those who weep no longer lock themselves up with their sorrow, but are able to discover through hope an unsuspected moral improvement and an increase of charity.

One needs to have suffered to hear within oneself the first timid calls of hope; hope, however, soon shows to whoever consents to listen, the dim and unknown pathways of the faith. Suffering also becomes bearable if we look at it as a way of weeping for our faults and mistakes – penance.

If we know how to suffer for our Lord (however unjust we may perceive our suffering to be) then our remorse will give way to the repentance which regenerates us; for in a heart broken by contrition, our Lord will break the bonds that keep it chained to evil, remembering the words of our Lord, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

By Kevin Mutemi

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