One of the most common faith questions people ask is, ‘Why does God allow tragedy and suffering?’ In my mind there is only one possible answer to this question. God allows tragedy and suffering because he knows that he will somehow be able to draw from it a greater good. It is not logical for a loving God who created the universe and all that is in it to allow suffering for any other reason.
God loves each one of us beyond our comprehension. He loves us enough to have sent his only son to live a short life and die an excruciatingly painful death for all of our sins (the ones we have committed and the ones we have yet to commit) so that we could live forever with him in heaven.
Does heaven sound attractive to you? Is eternal life with God something that you think about every day? Is it something that you talk about with your family and friends regularly? For most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, I would guess the answer is not a resounding, ‘Yes!’ It seems that God has a publicity problem when it comes to getting our attention and making eternal life appealing to us.
This is where I think tragedy (or any kind of seemingly senseless suffering) comes in. I have noticed that nothing turns people so immediately and collectively to God as does tragedy, and especially a tragedy that appears to have no answers to the question, ‘Why?’
We seem to understand that evil human actions can hurt others. And we seem to be able to accept that our own wrong choices can cause us and those around us pain and suffering. But it is much more difficult for us to understand or accept pain and suffering that appear to have no cause or reason, especially when innocent human lives are taken. So what then could be a greater good that comes from a seemingly senseless tragedy?
One possible answer is that we are here in this imperfect world – our temporary home until we return to our true home in heaven – to learn what it means to love each other. Often we forget how to love one another. Frequently, we even forget that we are supposed to love one another. I believe that God allows tragedy and suffering to help us remember why we are here.
The following links to resources on a Catholic approach to tragedy may be of some help:
(Faye Akers, Adult Faith Formation Coordinator, St. Francis Parish)