One of the most troubling questions for anyone who has thought through their faith is the problem of pain. If God is all powerful and all loving why does He allow us to suffer?
Christians are often accused of skirting the issue of suffering, but in fact, the answer to the riddle of suffering is at the heart of our faith. The crucifix is the central image in our faith. We echo the words of St. Paul, who wrote, “We preach Christ and Him crucified.”
Instead of suffering being an unanswerable question for Catholics, it is the question itself which takes us to the answer. Why does an all loving God allow suffering? Because He has created us in His own image, and because we are created in His image we have a little bit of His omnipotent power. What I mean is that we have been given free will. We really can do what we want. We are not pre-programmed robots.
This means we can choose between good and evil. If we choose good we receive blessing, life and abundance. If we choose evil we go down the path of destruction, distortion and ultimately–suffering. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” The vast majority of suffering in the world is the result of selfish human choices, and the church teaches that even natural disasters are the result of the whole natural world having fallen into chaos through sin.
In the face of our human suffering, God does not remain distant. Instead, He himself comes among us to bear the weight of human suffering. This event is not merely an abstract theological statement, but a historical fact. So we place His life and suffering in history when we affirm that “He suffered under Pontius Pilate.”
This Holy Week we walk with Christ in the via dolorosa–the way of sorrow. As we walk with Christ in the way of the cross we not only think about human suffering, and come up with a theological answer, but we come face to face with every aspect of suffering as we enter into the suffering of Our Lord, and move through it to an ultimate resurrection.
This is the answer to suffering: that God Himself bears the suffering with us and for us. This Holy Week let us enter into this truth in a new way, walking with Him through the terrible trials to a new life on the other side.