By Fr. Charles Prince

Why does God allow us to suffer?  I am not sure that there is any entirely satisfactory answer, but the best one that I have come across can be summed up in three words: LOVE and FREE WILL.

God loves us so much that He wanted us to be able to have a genuine relationship with Him. If we can choose to love God, it must follow that we can also choose to reject God, to choose ourselves over Him. That is what Lucifer did, that is what Adam and Eve did, and that is what we do every time we sin. That is the origin of evil and suffering in the world and in our own lives.

Are love and free will satisfactory answers? I am not sure.

Because if we are convinced that free will is the origin of evil and suffering, then it seems that perhaps it was not the smartest move of God to create other beings who could bring evil and suffering into being. But I think if we try to think about it in human terms, perhaps it makes a bit more sense.

Would you rather have the love, friendship and affection of your brother or sister, cousin or best friends (including all the ups and downs of any close relationship) or a perfectly constructed robot that only responds with the appearance of love, friendship and affection because it was programmed to do so? Even if such a robot made, and said and did all the right things, it just wouldn’t be the same; it just wouldn’t have any real meaning or value.

I think that we can often agree that the idea makes sense in our heads; right up until we or someone that we love ends up suffering in a way that is unjust or unfair. This is nothing new – even Jesus’ friends sometimes felt that way. Take a moment and read John 11:1-32 about the death and raising of Lazarus and how Martha and Mary felt.

It is at times like those that we get angry with God; or try to shut off our feelings with an indifference that tries to avoid the hard questions. Then we need more to convince us that God really does love us.

Then we need Jesus.

But here is the thing: Jesus did not EXPLAIN the answer, because Jesus IS the answer:

  • Jesus suffered with us, as one of us and for us.
  • Jesus cried when Lazarus died. (Read John 11:33)
  • Jesus knows what it is to suffer.
  • Jesus knows what it is to be deeply moved by the suffering of others.
  • Jesus is deeply moved by any suffering that we experience.
  • Jesus showed us that suffering is never the end of the story.
  • Jesus showed us that suffering can lead to something else, something better, something that would not have been possible without it.

When Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead then suffering death found a meaning beyond themselves. In our own lives it is not always easy or possible to see that meaning when suffering touches us or those that we love, but the possibility is always there.

The suffering and death of Jesus shows that such a meaning can exist. When we suffer, God suffers with us because he loves us so overwhelmingly much. The suffering and death of Jesus show us that there will always be an end to suffering – if not in this life, then the next.

Revelation 21:4 reminds us “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain.”

There are few people in this world who suffered as much as Jesus did:

  • He was betrayed by one of his closest friends;
  • He was abandoned by nearly all the rest;
  • And he was tortured to death.

But that was not the end of the story. Just as the story of Jesus did not end in the pain of the cross or the cold of the tomb, but continued to the glory of the resurrection and ascension, so also does the story of all of us never end in pain and suffering.

But no matter what we experience in this life, we must never forget this profound truth:

The Cross is the road that leads to the Resurrection.


Profile Fr CharlesAbout the Author

Fr. Charles Prince

Fr Charles is currently serving as the Youth Chaplain to the Archdiocese of Cape Town, as well as the Parish Priest of St Anthony’s in Langa and chaplain to the University of the Western Cape and Cape Peninsula University of Technology – Bellville. He has always been passionate about Youth Ministry, feeling that his priestly vocation was fostered through the youth group that he was part of as a teenager. He is also involved in the Scout movement, where he has fulfilled a number of volunteer roles and currently serves as Deputy Regional Commissioner.






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