On September 14 and 15, we celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary respectively. It seems so odd that we would celebrate an instrument of torture and the emotional angst of some poor woman?
The answer is to be found in the criticisms of the enemies of our faith. Over the past few years, any editorialist or academician who wants to take a few cheap shots at the Christian faith, has only to bring up human suffering. The logic (if it can be called that) is as follows: You say that the Christian God is all powerful and all loving. To which the believer responds in the affirmative. Yet there is suffering in the world, which the believer must acknowledge. Therefore, our erudite responds, you God must not be all powerful because He does not put an end to all suffering on earth, or He is not all loving and all good because He can stop it, but He won’t. Therefore, He is either not God because He is not all powerful or not worth worshipping as God because He is cruel.
All of the neo-atheist talking heads out there essentially use this argument. This brings me to my first point. DO NOT EVER, EVER, ALLOW YOUR OPPONENT TO TELL YOU WHAT YOU THINK OR BELIEVE, AND THEN ATTACK WHAT THEY HAVE JUST TOLD YOU THAT YOU THINK OR BELIEVE!! The reason why the argument that so many people in the press, the universities, public education, etc., are so easily able to befuddle Christian believers is because they tell us what Christianity teaches—which is false—and then they attack that false belief. If we let them establish the parameters of the argument, we lose from the start!
Recently an editorialist (I forgot the publication for which he was writing) got out the old saw of how can there be a God when even children suffer? What kind of sick sense of humor does this so-called God have who will create a salamander that can re-grow an arm or leg if it loses one (which is true) but if a human being loses a limb, he is just out of luck?
The question of suffering has vexed humanity from its beginning. But Christianity has the definitive answer to suffering and it is found in the Cross and its resolution is illustrated for us in the sorrows of our Blessed Mother.
I personally have never had a problem understanding human suffering. That does not mean that I like it or celebrate it, but the existence of suffering is easy to understand. Christianity tells us that all suffering is a consequence of sin. The story of the Fall in Genesis 3 tells us everything we need to know. Because of human sin, we bring ruin upon ourselves. If a drunk wrecks his car and is paralyzed for life, while tragic, it is understandable. If an intravenous drug user or a sodomite contracts the AIDS virus, it is sad, but not surprising.
What about natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and the like? Again, Genesis 3 tells us that sin sent ripples through God’s creation that upset the harmony it originally enjoyed.
So what is the answer? For many of the self-professed “enlightened” God is supposed to wave His hand and make all the “owies” go away. This is the thinking of the ancient Greeks in their theatre where the capricious gods of Olympus would swoop in at the end of a tragic play and make everything OK by their divine power—the deus ex machina—the god who was lowered to the stage by a machine who magically resolved the conflict.
This is fine for entertainment, but does not reflect our life experience where men and women, children and old people all suffer from a countless number of physical and mental ills.
So what is the Christian answer to the suffering that we have brought upon ourselves? The answer is found in the Cross. God, rather than just making all suffering magically disappear, immerses Himself in our suffering in an unimaginable way. Even the sweetest child is guilty of some sin. Yet the Son of God, Who is completely innocent of any wrongdoing of any kind, suffers the most brutal physical torture that man could devise as well as being humiliated and emotionally broken. God’s answer to our suffering, which we brought upon ourselves, is to suffer with us. But it does not end there. He also shows us that if we trust Him and unite our sufferings with Him, we will rise victorious over suffering and ultimately over death itself. Our Blessed Mother shows us how to endure our sufferings and trust that God will bring good out of it.
Those who claim that God is not God because He does not make suffering go away simply do not understand Christianity 101.