How many times I have heard sentences such as, “God is really putting that family to the test,” or “The Lord gave me this cross to bear…” I always experience a certain uneasiness toward the thought that God might put a man to the test or that he would happily weigh man down with burdens that cause him to suffer. And I always ask myself, could God, who is good, be the cause of our evil? I am convinced the answer is no: evil and death enter the world due to sin and not through God willing it. Otherwise we would have to accept the idea of a capricious God, envious of man and his happiness.
This is why deep down, Job’s age-old rhetorical question contains a terrible ambiguity: “If from God we accept the good, why wouldn’t we also accept evil?” It is a question to which one must necessarily respond: we don’t accept evil from God, because evil’s origin is not in God. And Job’s story exists precisely to demonstrate this: everything, in fact, is born from Satan’s envy. It is he who wants men to be evil and provokes him to the point of making him doubt the Creator’s love for him. But God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living (Wisdom 1:13), and He repeats this Himself to Job when, even though Job has started doubting Him, He shows Himself for what He is, the creator of all the beauty and greatness that exists in the world.
And so what is the meaning of my suffering and of the suffering of those I love? And more than anything else, what is the meaning of the suffering of the innocent, of he who is without guilt, the suffering of children of which Ivan, the first-born of the brothers Karamazov, becomes a champion?
A few days ago, I visited Fr. Aldo Trento in his clinic in Asunción, Paraguay. Aldo brought us to visit Luz, Maria, and Miriam, young women who are confined to beds due to genetic or suddenly contracted illnesses. They are girls who the world considers to be condemned to living a useless existence, which one can hardly call “life.” Aldo told us to look at the sheet that hung above their bed: “Maria offers her illness for the house of the Fraternity of St. Charles in Moscow,” or “Luz offers her illness for the house in Fuenlabrada, Spain,” etc. The same thing can be read above the beds of all 48 sick patients in the clinic: each one of them offers his or her very life for one of our houses. Looking at them, not only the meaning of these young peoples’ lives, but also the sense of my very own life, became clear to me. Accepting that the existence of a man or women can be lived for years in suffering, or embracing the idea that the life of a child could last only a few days, or even a few hours, invited me look at every instance of my own life inside the context of the eternal. It teaches me to offer even the most insignificant moment, the most banal action, or the tiniest sacrifice, all as part of the that unique offering of himself that Christ completes every day through our humanity, starting precisely from the one made by these suffering little ones.
The cause of our suffering is not God, but it is Christ who gives it meaning: that is, to participate, in a mysterious way, in our very salvation; or to give a reason for our hope.