What God Teaches Us Through Suffering
Facing difficulties is part of life and sometimes they can cause us much anxiety and distress. We might question God and even whether He really exists. In today’s First Reading Job expresses how we can all feel at times (Job 7:1-7).
“Is not man’s life on earth nothing more than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery? … Months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief. Lying in bed I wonder ‘When will it be day?’ … my eyes will never again see joy.”
Job thinks he is never going to be happy again, and it is true that suffering can make us feel like our troubles will last for ever. But this is not really the case and neither did it turn out to be so for Job. He did find happiness again, and in abundance. As Psalm 30:5 says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And this is even the case with death, because if we are faithful we will have eternal joy in Heaven.
So why does God allow us to suffer in this life? Of course there is a certain amount of mystery involved but we can give some possible reasons. Certainly, when we are confronted with problems, it can cause us to change for the better. If everything goes according to our plans we can be tempted to forget about God altogether, whereas in our sufferings we may be prompted to turn to Him. The trials of life can also make us stronger and better people. You may find inner strengths and talents you never knew you had.
Problems and sufferings can even be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes when I’m stuck in traffic on the M25 for over an hour or miss the train, I like to think maybe God is protecting me from something harmful ahead. Without these hassles I may have been involved in a serious accident, but through the delay I’ve been saved from it. Or a serious health problem can prevent someone from committing a habitual sin which might otherwise result in their being eternally lost. So God can turn our sufferings to a greater good. Also our sins and the sins of others need atoning for, and millions of souls out there need converting. It’s much easier for us to atone for our sins in this life than in Purgatory by offering our suffering to God as a penance. The saints tell us the sufferings of Purgatory are far more intense than the greatest sufferings on earth. Then the sufferings and the trials of life that you offer for the conversion of sinners may obtain their repentance, and at the same time you receive the merit for a great act of charity.
So God permits us to suffer for a reason. We won’t necessarily know now what that reason is, but in the end we have to accept that God knows what is best for us. So when you pray for something, allow Him to say either “now” or “later”. Either way you benefit – from the healing now, or your faith is strengthened because you have placed all your trust in Him and left it to His Providence.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC