For God created man for incorruption, and made him the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it. (Wis 2:23-24)
These words from the Book of Wisdom, our first reading, address the problem of suffering—as did our first reading last Sunday, taken from the Book of Job. Suffering is part of the human condition; we all know that. Everyone suffers in some way, at some time; this too we know. Yet, when suffering visits us personally, it is possible to feel isolated and abandoned. Sometimes people say, “I cannot believe in a God who would allow such suffering.” Perhaps we have been tempted to say these words ourselves or at least have thought them. Though suffering is evidently part of human existence it nevertheless remains threatening, challenging, and mysterious.
From a theological point of view, that is, from the perspective of one who believes in God, the problem raised by the experience of suffering is generally called theodicy. Derived from the Greek words for God and justice, theodicy attempts to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. This effort attempts to hold together these three propositions: God is all powerful, God is just, and people suffer. To put it another way, how can an omnipotent God allow suffering, especially innocent suffering?