That bewildering question of why suffering plays such a large role in human life has been raised  by people in every age.  For many, it seems God doesn’t really care or is powerless to prevent disasters and the suffering they cause.  A character in one of Graham Greene’s novels put it this way : ”They say God is love.  If this is love I’d rather have a bit of kindness.”

Because humans are endowed with reason, they naturally seek understanding and explanations but in times of trouble and suffering one seeks not so much explanation
as ways of coping.  The noted French bishop and orator, Jacques Bousset, provides
an example.  When he was on his deathbed and in great suffering what he had read to him was not the appropriate questions in the Summa Theologica  or his own wonderful sermons on providence but the consoling words of Jesus in his farewell discourse.  (John 14-16)

Being unable to understand why God allows suffering to enter our lives does not mean suffering is without reason.   John Paul II in his encyclical, Salvifici doloris (no. 30), offers this insight:  “Suffering is present in the world in order to give birth to works of love toward neighbor, in order to transform the whole of civilization into a civilization of love.”

Paradoxically, there is a sense in which love needs suffering.  Genuine love is shown only in the way one reacts to the needs/suffering of others, how one sacrifices/suffers in order to meet the needs of others.  To be convincing a genuinely loving act has to cost something.  Examples of that are plentiful, even in small things.  A mother gets up in

the middle of the night – even though she is desperately tired – to meet the needs of  her child.  The same is shown in big things; in the way someone might devote their whole life to care for another, a husband with Alzheimer’s, a wife ravaged with multiple sclerosis.  In a world without suffering, there would be no needs to attend to, no suffering to alleviate, and no one could show genuine love by voluntarily taking on any measure of suffering on behalf of another.

As Mother Angelica observed: “Suffering in itself does not make us holy.  It is only when we unite it out of love to the suffering of Christ that it has meaning.  Suffering without love is wasted pain.”