DOES GOD MAKE YOU SUFFER?
POPE JOHN PAUL II ON THE MEANING OF HUMAN SUFFERING
A summary of Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter
Why does God make bad things happen? This issue seems to be the second biggest stumbling block after general disbelief in God. This excellent apostolic letter which is summarised below starts to deal with the subject in more depth.
1. Man in his sufferings remains an intangible mystery.
Look closely at this title. It states that man, even before the suffering begins, is ‘an intangible mystery’ i.e. it is not just the suffering that is an intangible mystery. Pope John Paul II does not shy away from the difficult point that suffering is something that humans simply will never understand. This in turn is something that the culture will not accept because modern society will not tolerate 'mystery' and wants immediate answers. Also the answers that can be gleaned from suffering involves inward soul searching that involves admitting to difficult realities which many people are not prepared to acknowledge in their lives.
2. Man suffers when he experiences any kind of evil.
3. Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of the goodness within us so that we become more Christ like. This goodness is further strengthened by repentance.
4. Love is the ultimate source of the meaning of suffering which will always remain a mystery. However, Christ does call us to search for answers as to the 'why?' of suffering. This is difficult to understand. How can love be the ultimate source of the meaning of suffering? God never causes suffering, but He sometimes allows us to experience suffering so that we might overcome the evil that caused us to suffer in the first place. We may be surprised to hear that this is one of the ways that God shows His love for us, but God’s genuine version of Love is not the same as the secularised version that we are used to. God may test us, not to prove that we love him, but so that we might conquer evil. This is because God made us so that you might overcome the world. (Ironically, by overcoming the suffering of the world we automatically prove that we love God).
5. Suffering is conquered by love and God gives His son to the World to ultimately free man from evil.
6. Evil (which is caused by Satan) has a grip on 'why humans do not understand suffering' [but whilst humans do everything to avoid suffering they cannot get a grip on how to overcome suffering.]
7. Salvation gives us liberation from evil, but unless we start to concentrate on the source of suffering then we will continue to concentrate 'on the suffering', and not 'on our salvation'. [In other words, when we start to concentrate on the source of the suffering then we start to move towards our salvation. Satan wants us to concentrate 'on our suffering' rather than the 'source of suffering' so that he moves us away from our salvation so that we will end up in hell. Those who search and admit to the deepest problems and issues in their lives start to learn why the suffering is there, which may then lead them on a path to removing that suffering, which in turn will lead to salvation].
8. With the help of Christ's salvific work on Earth He leaves us with the hope of eternal life and holiness.