Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Does God "Want" Us to Suffer?

"Now, this must be a really crazy God if he/she wants us to suffer." [Source]

This line stood out to me, not that I would tell someone that their loved one died because God wanted to teach them something. But her reaction, that God would have to be crazy to want us to suffer, is also a bit off, especially in that context. God himself willed himself to suffer, in the person of Christ, because out of that suffering comes a much greater good.

Is that crazy to consider, then, that we might endure suffering for a greater good?  

I think not.

The greater good of freely chosen love, of self-donation in the many forms it has taken and continues to take daily in human history, is only possible through undetermined freedom of individuals. Yet that same freedom makes possible much harm to others, and sometimes to our own selves.

We may not always grasp the greater goods that God brings out of suffering. That, in itself, is a kind of suffering. But for those of us who believe in God, we know that it is true, that despite what appear to be inexplicable, unjust, and unaccounted for evils, God can and does have a greater good in view by allowing them.

No, God doesn't "want" our suffering in itself. God wants the best for us, but sometimes that does involve suffering. For the Christian, suffering is not a waste. It is not an inescapable, engulfing void of grief and nothingness. Suffering contains within it the seeds of redemption, of some greater redeeming good.

It's not for us to read the entrails and try to figure out the details of how this or that evil brings a greater good (though we can rejoice when we do see it). It is for us, rather, to embrace the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, believing that God can, does, and will bring about the good, knowing that what we don't see does not escape his vision, and doing our part to bring about that good ourselves through simple yet profound acts of charity throughout our lives.