Does suffering have any purpose in life?

A crib-death of a two-month baby girl, a family of four slaughtered by a speeding drunk-driver, a newly-married couple tragically snuffed out by a freak plane crash--- why? Why? Why?

Why is it that the innocent must suffer?  Does it all make sense?  Where is God present in all these inexplicable tragedies?  Where is He?

Sooner or later tragedy will inevitably knock at the door of all of us whether we like it or not. This is the human condition!

No easy and simplistic response can unravel the mystery of human suffering. The nature of “Mystery” is that it is hidden and not fully given to clear explanation. Our God is a mysterious God.

Christianity does not remove human suffering, but offers the best explanation for suffering.  All suffering, moral, spiritual, psychological, physical, emotional, social, economic stem from the reality of Original Sin. Because of the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, suffering entered into the world. However, God can always bring good out of evil. This indeed He did by sending His Son Jesus to save us and to teach us the true meaning of suffering in all forms, sizes and shapes!

The Bible says that Jesus went about doing good. Read through the Gospels. He healed the sick, cured the lepers, restored sight to the blind, gave hearing to the deaf and speech to the mute, strengthened the limbs of the paralytics. Even more, in three separate times He brought the dead back to life.

His heart tenderly moved for all forms of suffering. He took children in His arms and blessed them.  Jesus was the essence and sum-total of goodness Incarnate! His whole life was a pouring out of Himself—even to the very last drops of His Precious Blood--- in doing good to others.

How did His life end?  When life seems to have no meaning, when suffering knocks at your door, when tragedy catches you by surprise, truly the only real answer is in Jesus, the Son of the living God.

THE CROSS.  All of us have to carry our own cross, the cross that God has decided to fabricate for us for all eternity. Nobody can escape from the stark reality of the cross.

CROSS BEFORE US.   We should all have a cross/crucifix before our eyes. Choose the one that speaks most eloquently to you. Classical art offers many variations.  You could purchase a crucifix and nail it to the wall of your room. Best to have a crucifix with the “Corpus”—the body of Jesus hanging from it.

ART.  You might even prefer some artistic depiction of Jesus hanging from the cross!  The depictions vary!  It could be Jesus looking tenderly upon His mother or talking to the His beloved disciple Saint John. Or it might be Jesus lifting His merciful gaze to the repentant thief opening up the gates of heaven to this repentant sinner in the last moments of his life.

It might be Jesus who is breathing His last breath and returning His spirit to His Heavenly Father.  If you prefer, maybe it is Jesus who has already died and His dead body rests in the sleep of death having given His all--- the Innocent suffering for the guilty!

CONTEMPLATE JESUS ON THE CROSS.  To help us in those dark moments in our lives that we call suffering, the contemplation of Jesus hanging on the cross can help us beyond words. Before retiring every night spend a minute or two simply contemplating Jesus as He hangs on the cross. Kiss His eternal wounds. Tell Him that you love Him and are grateful for His suffering on the cross for love of you. Be faithful to this practice every day.

One day the mother of Saint John Bosco had an unsupportable day in the Oratory. The children that were in the Oratory were driving her crazy.  She decided it was enough. She could not take any more!  She packed her bag and was all ready to return home, home sweet home! Before she left she wanted to say good-bye to her son, Father John Bosco. Moved by divine instinct, the saint took his other by the arm, and without saying a word, he pointed to the wall on which hung Jesus from a crucifix.  Mama Margarita, looked intently, contemplated Jesus hanging in agony from the cross. She went back to her room, unpacked her belongings, and stayed with her son to help the energetic and often rebellious boys until God called her to the next life.  What made Margarita Bosco change her mind? Very simple, it was the gaze and contemplation of Jesus on the cross.

In conclusion, suffering in and of itself has no positive value. However, it does have incalculable salvific value if it is seen in light of the cross, united to the cross, conformed to the crucified One who hangs on the cross.

Life indeed has many challenging mysteries, among which is the reality of human suffering.  Too much suffering is wasted and turning too many people young as well as old into bitter individuals. The reason is very simple: a lack of understanding of the cross and uniting one’s own cross to the cross of the crucified Savior. Saint Francis of Assisi bore the wounds of the crucified in his body; we call this the stigmata. Let us conclude with the prayer of this saint who understood the cross and its value possibly better than anybody else, except the Lord Himself.  “We adore you O Christ and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”