Redemptive suffering

By Tom Quiner

Blessed Bishop Sheen

Blessed Bishop Sheen

Why does God allow suffering?

This is the question men of faith and faithless men have asked down through the ages. A Quiner’s Diner reader wrote and told me she is going through the Catholic Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

She was trying to come to grips with this question. Some non-Catholic Christian evangelists promote a philosophy that financial well-being is the will of God for man. This is known as the prosperity gospel.

Catholic thinking, on the other hand, embraces the notion that suffering can be redemptive, that it is even sometimes necessary for the salvation of souls.

Catholic thinking embraces the theology that what God wants is us. He wants us to freely choose His Love, to take His Hand and walk with Him along the path toward salvation.

God gave us free will. Love isn’t love if it’s coerced or manipulated. Love is a choice. When we get off the right path, as most of us do at sometime or other, the resulting suffering is an opportunity for God to draw especially near to us.

Blessed Archbishop Fulton Sheen expressed it very simply:

“Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”

Blessed Henry Suso built on this idea:

“If Suffering gave no Pain, it could not be called Suffering. There is Nothing more-Painful than Suffering, and Nothing more-Joyful, than to-have Suffered. Suffering is a Short Pain, and a Long Joy. Suffering gives to the Sufferer, Pain Here, and Joy Hereinafter. — Suffering changes an Earthly Man into a Heavenly Man.”

Perhaps the most-read author on the subject is Thomas a Kempis, a medieval monk. His book, The Imitation of Christ, is the second most published book in history, next to the Bible:

“Thanks to You that You have not Spared me Evils, but have Bruised me with Bitter Blows, Inflicting Sorrows, sending Distress ‘Without’ and ‘Within’.

Under Heaven, there is none to-Console me except You, my Lord God, the Heavenly Physician of Souls, Who Wound and Heal, Who Cast-down to-Hell, and Raise-up again. Your Discipline is upon-me, and Your very Rod shall Instruct me.

Behold, Beloved Father, I am in Your Hands. I Bow myself under Your Correcting Chastisement.

Strike my Back and my Neck, that I may Bend my Crookedness to Your Will.

Make of me a Pious and Humble Follower, as in Your Goodness, You are Wont to do; that I may Walk according-to Your every Nod. Myself, and all that is mine, I commit-to You to be Corrected, for it is better to be Punished Here, than Hereafter.”


  1. karenzai on November 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you so much, Tom, for taking the time to write this post in response to my question!

    • quinersdiner on November 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      You are so welcome. There are rich resources on the subject. Hope this brief blogpost spurs you on to seek more in-depth answers to the inexplicable.