I recently came across these wise words about suffering from Fr. Stephen Doyle, O.F.M. We all suffer in one way or another, but what is our reaction to this suffering? Please consider the following passage:
Suffering can diminish people or make them grow. How sad it is to encounter those who have become whiners or complainers when faced with the burden of illness or age. What a joy to come in contact with those whose spirit glows even or perhaps because of suffering. What accounts for the difference? Some ask the right question, and some ask the wrong question.
Some ask, “Why is God doing this to me,” or “What did I do to deserve this?” That is the wrong question, but even Jesus’ disciples asked it. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:2) The question presumes that all suffering is due to personal sin and comes as a punishment from a vindictive God. It has been called “ambush” theology. It presents an angry and mean-spirited God who is just waiting for us to make a false move. Hardly the image of his Father that Jesus gives us.
Such a question is fundamentally wrong because it has no answer. It can only lead to frustration or even loss of faith. Even Jesus did not tell us why there is suffering in the world or where it comes from. Instead, he helped us to ask the right question. “What can I do with this illness, this suffering?” This question has an answer that will enable us to grow and to help others. We can do with our suffering what Jesus did with his. We can embrace it with love and join in his saving work. Because we are one with him, he is willing to make our sufferings his own. Jesus did not physically cure everyone he met, as he cured this man at the pool. He does not say to everyone, “Rise and walk.” But he is always willing to heal. He may begin the healing by helping us to ask the right question.