No one goes through life without being wounded in some way, without experiencing some pain/suffering.  The fact of suffering raise some hard questions that cannot be ignored.  A difficulty that has survived all changes of mental and spiritual fashions is   the fact of suffering as an argument against belief in God.  The problem of suffering becomes especially acute for those who believe in God as a loving father who is also the all-powerful creator of the universe.

In his book Silence, the Japanese author, Shusaku Endo, Proposed that one of the greatest paradoxes of Christianity is God as loving and the fact of suffering.  He noted that we hear a great deal about the God of love and the love of God.  The difficult thing is to show in some tangible way those are not simply pious expressions devoid of any real meaning.  God’s love can be hard to find.  It can remain hidden behind realities which suggest rather that God does not exist or, if God exists, he doesn’t care enough to intervene, or, if he intervenes, it is because he is angry.

That idea is aptly reflected in a comment by a character in one of Graham Greene’s novels, The Captain and the Enemy.  “They are always saying God loves us.  If that is love, I’d rather have a bit of kindness.”   Gideon, in the book of Judges, also reflects that idea.  We are told Gideon was threshing wheat when the angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said: “God is with you, valiant warrior!”  Gideon replied: “Excuse me, my Lord, but if God is with us, why is all this happening to us?  And where are all the miracles which our ancestors used to tell us about?”  (Judges 6: 11-13)

The strongest argument against all attempts to explain the why of suffering lies in the fact they represent an effort to find a universally valid theoretical answer to a question that is profoundly existential.  To put that a bit differently: suffering is not a theoretical problem which reasoning can resolve.    It can only be undergone.  The problem is how to cope.

Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Spe salvi, offers a helpful suggestion.  He writes: “We try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it.   ….. It is not by side-stepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it , maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ who suffered with infinite love.”