During my studies in Rome last year, one of my professors poignantly stated that maybe people today are troubled by doubting that God is good. Perhaps more people struggle to believe in the goodness of God than to believe in His existence. Sure, Someone must be in control of all this we see; Someone must have made it. But if there is so much evil in the world, suffering in my own life, and even evil within me, then how could God possibly be good?
Why does God permit evil and suffering? Because He can bring an even greater good out of it. Think of times in our lives when we see a greater good come from suffering: the pangs of childbirth followed by the joy of a mother beholding her newborn; a child’s hard work and studying rewarded by learning and even perhaps good grades; family members distanced for years united again at the funeral of a loved one; spouses working through a rough patch and actually growing closer in the process. Though sometimes hard to see in the moment of suffering, God is present and at work in each such moment to draw us gently closer to Himself and often also to one another.
Over the Christmas break, my assignment for the year changed; I would be moving from studying in Washington, D.C., to living and helping around the house in our priory (large convent) in Texas. But God had made His will quite clear, even before our Mother superior first spoke with me about the possibility, and I was completely at peace. As I was telling another Sister about how God had prepared me for this change of assignment, she suddenly exclaimed in awe, “He is so good to you!”
What before the Christmas break would have seemed to me impossibly hard had become instead all I really wanted. And this was because I had encountered through this process His goodness. Brothers and sisters, look for the ways in which He is good to you in particular. He is not only good in a general sense, bringing about good in the universe on the whole. Rather He is good and brings about good specifically in each of our lives. Let us look for the ways He has touched each of our lives with His goodness. And when that touch comes about through suffering, let us recognize Him and His goodness in it.
The only way to find meaning in suffering, ultimately, is to look at the crucifix. Christ took the suffering of the world onto His shoulders. He gave His very life in horrendous pain and sorrow that you and I might be set free. No moment of suffering we experience is encountered in isolation; whenever we suffer, our crucified Lord is there with us. It is not so much that He is helping us carry our crosses; rather, it is His cross of which we are being given a share. Suffering is precious because it unites us with our Beloved Lord on Calvary, where He won the victory for our salvation, conquering sin and death. It is this union with Him who is goodness itself that can make suffering not only bearable but even sweet.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.