The profound problem of evil is a scandal that keeps many people far from God and drives many others away from him. Is it moral evil and sin at work? Yes, but there is more at work. Is it moral evil among those who should be setting an example? Again, yet, but even more so, it is physical evil and suffering. This is evil that we all witness.
Take war, for example, with its deliberate destruction of cities and its unjustifiable slaughter of the elderly and the innocent, of women and children. Such is the scourge of war. Then there are diseases and calamities of all types: earthquakes, floods, droughts, and monsoons which produce massive, multifaceted suffering. Children are torn away from their parents and families are broken up.
God created us not for suffering but for happiness, above all and without exception. He wills our happiness in order that we may enjoy with him the fullness of joy. The misfortune is that we human beings do not know how to be happy.
If we only listened to Christ who came to teach the world true happiness!
Against true human happiness, there is or appears to be a great obstacle: the evil of suffering. Christ converted suffering into happiness. Suffering can still come, but it is no longer a sadness.
Christ has taught us to overtake suffering at its source. There, where it springs up, we can seize and transform it; there, we can change its nature and make it a source of happiness.
Since Christ chose suffering for himself, suffering is not a curse or a plague to be avoided at any price. Christ welcomed the cross and even said, “He who wishes to come after me must take up his cross every day and follow in my footsteps” [Lk 9:23].
We have already considered God’s preparation of Mary to be the mother of his eternal Son. What extraordinary supernatural gifts God poured out on her at the moment of her creation and throughout her life.
Would God not have loved his mother to have given her such exceptional gifts? But he also gave her the fullest measure of suffering. Do we not call the Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows?”
Since the number seven is considered a sign of perfection, it follows that his suffering represents the epitome of living, human suffering. That is the destiny of Christ’s mother.
Saint Teresa was well aware that God afflicts those whom he loves when she said: “Oh, to die and thus to see you! But, if you will for me to live longer here on earth, then please grant me suffering, so that I will not waste the time” [Cf. The Book of Her Life, 40].
Life without suffering is a waste of time. Every hour not united to God’s will is an hour squandered.
I call on you my God, and on you, ever Virgin Mary, for you have never wasted your time. Teach me to love.
Servant of God Père Jacques de Jésus, O.C.D.
Conference 10, “The Cross: To baptize suffering and happiness” (excerpts)
Friday evening, 10 September 1943
Jacques, P 2005, Listen to the silence: a retreat with Père Jacques, translated from the French and edited by Murphy F, ICS Publications, Washington DC.