On page 15 of their December 28, 2014 issue, the newsweekly, Our Sunday Visitor, published the question, Why Does God Allow Suffering?' and an answer.
I was never satisfied when told that suffering is an unfathomable mystery. I disagree with the opinion of my Polish compatriot - my mother was Polish - that suffering is "an unsolvable mystery that transcends the power of our human reason." But whom am I to disagree with St. John Paul II the Great? I am a nobody - a nobody who holds the opinion that very little transcends the power of human reason. I have faith in the power of human reason because God gave reason to me. God does not give us gifts that do not work. Therefore, undaunted by the good Pope's declaration of hopelessness, I endeavored to figure out the answer out for myself.
Tell me whether or not I have succeeded.
To discover the explanation of suffering, we must go back to the beginning. We must return to the thin slice of time occupied by our parents, Adam and Eve. The story that unfolded on their layer of realty is viewed by many as a child’s fairy tale with little or no relevance to us today. Its lesson is judged too simple and, hence, too well-understood, to deserve any further serious contemplation. It is taken for granted. Few sermons are preached about it. Yet, the story of Adam and Eve is the sine qua non to an understanding of suffering and God's plan for our salvation.
The serpent was man's first predator. His chronology is important. God created man. God gave man the gift of life, the gift of paradise in which to live it and the gift of a spouse with whom to share it and enjoy it. Then the serpent appeared. Adam and Eve had paradise in hand before the serpent made his appearance. And the serpent was hellbent on taking paradise away from them. To rob Adam and Eve of paradise, the serpent conjured up an illusion. The illusion was that it was better for them to live in godlessness as gods than in paradise with God. The illusion that godlessness was sweeter than paradise worked. It induced Adam and Eve to exit paradise and enter godlessness.
We learn from the fall of Adam and Eve (and the fall of a gaggle of angels led by Lucifer) that paradise is not a prison, God is not our warden and we are not their prisoners. We can abdicate paradise if we want to. God has given us the freedom to prosper with them or self-destruct without them
However, godlessness is not a nice place. In godlessness, we are fish out of water. God wants to rescue us from godlessness. God does not want the children of Adam and Eve to repeat the mistake of their parents. God does not want us to abdicate paradise as our parents did after the gift of paradise is delivered to us. When God delivers the gift of paradise to us, God wants us to keep it.
God devised a plan that would rescue us. It is a simple plan. It consists of only three elements: sourness, sweetness and rationality.
To effect our rescue, the first thing God did was shatter the illusion conjured up by the serpent that godlessness is a sweeter place for us to dwell than paradise. To shatter the illusion, God inserted a delay between our creation and the delivery of the gift of paradise. During the delay, we get to experience godlessness for ourselves. We learn through personal experience that godlessness sucks. Some of us get a spoonful of the sourness of godlessness; some get a bellyful; some, like the Son of God, get a baptism by immersion. Reality shatters the illusion. The experience of the sourness of godlessness is harsh but effective medicine. The harsh but effective medicine reduces the likelihood that we will abdicate the gift of paradise after the gift of paradise is delivered to us to near zero. The prodigal Son is never going back to the pig sty and neither are the children of Adam and Eve.
The effectiveness of the medicine justifies its harshness in the opinion of God. The medicine works. Therefore, God prescribes it. The medicine benefits us. The sourness of godlessness pushes us to its exit.
The only question is whether the harshness crosses the threshold into cruelty. Is God a sadist who tortures us with the sourness of godlessness? A lifetime no matter how long is an infinitesimally thin slice of time compared to the thickness of eternity. Life is brief. The brevity of life stops the harshness of the medicine from crossing the threshold into cruelty. If we were condemned to spend longer than a lifetime in the shit hole of godlessness, then and only then would the medicine become cruel. The brevity of life is proof that God is merciful.
Our rationality detects the sourness of godlessness and tells our will to move us to a different place. The sourness of godlessness is an engine that pushes us out of godlessness. However, it is not the only engine. God revealed to us the sweetness of paradise. The sweetness of paradise is the engine that pulls us through the entrance of paradise. Two forces not one induce us to join the new exodus that is escaping on the escape route that God established to take us through the hostile desert of godlessness from slavery under the yoke of Pharaoh to freedom with God and their holy family in the promised land. There is a potential difference between the sourness of godlessness and the sweetness of paradise. All that was needed to induce the current of salvation to flow was a connection between the two. The most Holy Trinity placed the Son of God between the world of paradise and the world of godlessness to serve as the conductor. The Son of God is the bridge over which the current of salvation flows. Through the bloody wounds we opened in the body of the Son of God with lash, thorns, nails and spear, the current of salvation carries us into the loving embrace of God.
Why does God allow suffering? Suffering is harsh but effective medicine. It shatters the illusion that godlessness is a better place in which to live than in paradise. It prevents us from repeating the mistake of Adam and Eve. Suffering drives us out of godlessness.