Why All This Suffering?
By Jay Hastings (Feb 16, 2007)
She was five years old. She had a rare cancer. She also suffered from lesions on her esophagus. She was being treated, but she was still in a lot of pain.
For many of us, when we see such suffering, especially the suffering of little children, we ask ourselves: Why is this happening?
Reading the Diary of St. Faustina can help us understand how our Lord views such suffering. Saint Faustina writes:
Once, after an adoration for our country, a pain pierced my soul, and I began to pray in this way: "Most merciful Jesus, I beseech You through the intercession of Your dearest Mother who nurtured You from childhood, bless my native land. I beg You, Jesus, look not on our sins, but on the tears of little children, on the hunger and cold they suffer. Jesus, for the sake of these innocent ones, grant me the grace that I am asking of You for my country." At that moment, I saw the Lord Jesus, His eyes filled with tears, and He said to me, You see, My daughter, what great compassion I have for them. Know that it is they who uphold the world (Diary of St. Faustina, 286).
They uphold the world. But how so?
Members of our Divine Mercy prayer group got a glimpse of that recently when we visited this sick five-year-old girl and sat with her in her hospital room and prayed for her. First, upon entering the hospital, two of us smelled roses. We viewed it as a good sign, since roses have long been associated with Our Blessed Mother.
We went in and met the little girl. Her family was struggling with the pain. But the mother, through it all, could see the spiritual journey that God was taking them through.
I recall the writings of Pope John Paul II, known as the "Great Mercy Pope." Particularly his reflections on redemptive suffering — how suffering, when united with the suffering of Christ on the cross, can become life-giving and lead one onto the path of salvation.
In his last book, Memory and Identity, published just before his death, Pope John Paul II wrote: "In sacrificing Himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love ..."
We spoke with the little girl and her family. We found out that she was having her birthday soon — on the Feast Day of St. Faustina! We gave her a copy of the image of The Divine Mercy with St. Faustina by His side, and the little girl clutched the picture so as to bond with St. Faustina, understanding that they shared an important day.
Then, with a first-class relic of St. Faustina, we prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy for her. I remember how the room was filled with a peace and stillness, even though there were kids in the room. We prayed a very meditative Chaplet for healing and God's will in the little girl's life.
As we were leaving, once again one of the women in our prayer group (a woman who said she had felt called to come on this day of praying) smelled roses. We felt that this was miraculous because we were in what was supposed to be a sterile environment. Again, we took it as a good sign; we felt we were supposed to be there that day for that little girl.
We later learned that the girl was responding positively to treatment and had been sent home. She is still in our prayers.
Why do some children have to suffer so? I don't know. But I do know that our Lord of goodness and mercy keeps these children in His loving embrace. And I do know that pain and suffering draw out love from the hearts and minds of people. For instance, that little girl and her family experience pain — one, the physical pain of the body, and the other, the emotional, spiritual, psychological pain in union with their loved one. This scenario is lived day in and day out by people everywhere.
Our Christian response is that no pain should ever be wasted — never endured or simply tolerated in bitterness. It needs to be embraced as a precious moment of mutual and healing love.
Pope John Paul II wrote, "It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good."
In the hospital that day, we shared a moment with God. It brought a stillness and calmness to our lives. Through that little girl and her family, we experienced "a great flowering of good." And wouldn't you know it, we smelled that flowering goodness, too — that sweet aroma that God allows as a reward for faith, hope, and love.
Jay Hastings, of Bartlett, Tenn., is the founder of a growing group of Divine Mercy devotees who ensures that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is being prayed every hour of the day. The 24-Hour Chaplet members now consist of more than 500 people from across the United States, as well as from Mexico, Belize (Central America), Costa Rica, Canada, Philippines, Bolivia, India, Iraq, Australia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Tanzania, who are assigned an hour each day in which to pray. They pray for three things: the promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion; the sick and dying in the hour that you pray; and people about to commit mortal sin. To join the 24-Hour Chaplet, contact Jay via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone, 901-438-7772.