PAIN AND SUFFERING

My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

PAIN AND SUFFERING

If God is all-powerful, just, and loves us so much He created the world, why does He allow terrible things to happen to His creation, and especially to human beings? This is the one question which no one seems to have a universally satisfactory answer. Why does God allow sickness, suffering, aging, misfortunes, corruption, and death? Natural catastrophes seem to be capricious and irrational for God Who is firmly in control. Sometimes calamities succeed one after the other, embracing both good and bad people. When one is sick, another dies, yet another’s business is not doing well, another has marital problems, and another’s children go astray, we wonder: Has God abandoned us? Why does He remain silent to our pleas? Why do our prayers remain unanswered?

We may consider ourselves good and honest, doing our best not to violate God’s Commandments and, therefore, deserving of special consideration. Why do bad things happen to us and to good people in general, but particularly to innocent children? If God is the All-Powerful God that we say He is, why doesn’t He eradicate everything that stands in His way, all the evil, including Satan and his fallen angels who oppose His plan of creation and salvation? What’s the answer? HE DOES. OF course, it would never occur to us that God allows "bad" things to happen to us precisely because He loves us, because He wants to draw us closer to Him, because He wants to train us in virtue through pain and suffering, increasing our patience, our humility, our endurance, our steadfastness, and our continued trust; virtues which lead us to holiness. Before we give a fuller answer, let’s backtrack a little.

To find the complete answer, we need to go back to the beginning. There was no evil in the world, because "EVERYTHING GOD MADE WAS VERY GOOD" (Genesis 1:31). However, MAN MADE A WRONG CHOICE OF THE FREE WILL WITH WHICH HE WAS ENDOWED BY GOD AND DEVIATED FROM HIS PLAN. HIS FALL BROUGHT ABOUT THE FALL OF THE ENTIRE CREATION, BECAUSE MAN WAS THE MICROCOSM COMBINING THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE WORLD. The world is still good, BUT FALLEN. However, through Christ man can overcome evil and live eternally in "A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH" (Revelation 21:1). When that blessed day comes, the Lord "WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES. DEATH WILL BE NO MORE; (Revelation 21:4; Cf. Isaiah 25:8). In the meantime, THIS IS THE LAND OF THE ENEMY (SATAN), THE LAND OF EXILE. At the time of our death, we find our way back to this promised land. Thus, we sing in the "Blessings": "and the cherished homeland I pray do grant to me, MAKING ME AGAIN A CITIZEN OF PARADISE." THIS TEMPORARY LIFE IS GIVEN US AS A TEST. WE need to score well in order to pass on TO OUR PERMANENT ABODE.

God is always IN CONTROL. He IS NEVER ABSENT FROM OUR LIVES, even as we go through OUR TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS. In order to climb up to Zion, WE MUST FIRST DESCEND "THE VALLEY OF TEARS" (Psalm 85[84]:6). GOD IS NOT A HELPLESS BYSTANDER, watching His works of His hands suffer, unable to do anything about it. The Lord is the Lord of His creation. Everything is subject to His wisdom and everything proceeds according to His plan, even when it appears to us to be contrary to reason. So, if He allows something adverse to happen to us, WE MUST TRUST THAT HE ALLOWS IT FOR A PURPOSE and THAT HE MUST HAVE HIS INSCRUTABLE DESIGN. The Lord STANDS BY US: "EVEN THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH, I FEAR NO EVIL; FOR THOU ART WITH ME; THY ROD AND THY STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME" (Psalm 22[23]:4).

WE SHOULD HAVE FAITH THAT OUR PRAYERS ARE BEING HEARD BY GOD, Who controls even natural disasters and can spare people from devastation, suffering, and pain they cannot endure. This does not mean that people of faith have perfect health and nothing "bad" ever happens to them. On the contrary, IT SEEMS THAT PEOPLE OF FAITH SUFFER MORE THAN EVILDOERS. The Lord told His disciples: "YOU WILL WEEP AND LAMENT, BUT THE WORLD WILL REJOICE" (John 16:20). He did not stop there, or else it would not have made sense. He went on to say, "YOU WILL BE SORROWFUL, BUT YOUR SORROW WILL TURN INTO JOY." The Lord compared the pain and suffering His disciples would experience with the labor pains of a woman, which turn into joy when she delivers (John 16:21). Like their Master, after their own passion, His followers are promised to experience the Resurrection,

We Christians know that THERE IS REDEMPTIVE VALUE IN SUFFERING: IT IDENTIFIES US WITH CHRIST, WHO SUFFERED FOR US BECAUSE HE LOVED US TO DEATH. "GREATER LOVE HAS NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS" (John 15:13). Christ first suffered and then He entered into His glory (cf, Luke 24:26). We ought to do the same out of love for Him and our fellow human beings, so that His glory be revealed to us and shared by us (cf. Roman 8:18). "BELOVED, DO NOT THINK IT STRANGE CONCERNING THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH COMES UPON YOU TO PROVE YOU, AS THOUGH SOMETHING STRANGE WERE HAPPENING TO YOU. BUT REJOICE TO THE EXTENT THAT YOU SHARE IN CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS, THAT YOU MAY ALSO REJOICE WITH EXCEEDING JOY, WHEN HIS GLORY IS REVEALED" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

In order to partake of His glory and attain the blessed life He promised us, WE MUST DIE TO SIN, TO THE WORLD, AND TO SELF. THIS IS OUR DAILY CROSS (cf. Luke 9:23). SUFFERING IS THE MEANS BY WHICH WE ATTAIN PERFECTION, AS CHRIST DID (cf. Hebrews 2:10). SALVATION OFFERED TO US BY CHRIST IS COMPLETE. He said so with His last words. "IT IS FINISHED" (cf. John 19:30). Yet in some way salvation is also "lacking." WE MUST MAKE SALVATION EFFECTIVE IN US WITH OUR CO-SUFFERING WITH CHRIST. Saint Paul expressed this when he said, "I am now REJOICING IN MY SUFFERINGS FOR YOUR SAKE, AND IN MY FLESH I AM COMPLETING WHAT IS LACKING IN CHRIST’S AFFLICTIONS FOR THE SAKE OF HIS BODY; THAT IS, the Church" (Colossians 1:24). When WE EMBRACE SUFFERING, BECAUSE IT MAKES US CO-SUFFERERS WITH CHRIST, IT ACQUIRES REDEEMING VALUE. IT BRINGS REDEMPTION TO US. TO A BELIEVING CHRISTIAN, EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. IT WOULD BE IN VAIN TO SEEK ANSWERS TO EVIL AND SUFFERING WITHOUT CHRIST AND OUTSIDE OF CHRIST.. (Source: The Heavenly Banquet. Understanding the Divine Liturgy by Father Emmanuel Hatzidakis)

_________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

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