(29) suffered . . .

Surprise after surprise in this Creed! God created a world out of nothing and was born into it. Then, of all things, he suffered in his own world! If God is all good, why did he allow suffering in his world? If God is all mighty, why did he himself undergo suffering? How about that?

Suffering is more than pain. Although I certainly don’t like pain, I’m glad that God built this alarm system into me to warn me when I’m in danger. The doctors and I can usually do something about pain and its causes. But they don’t have any pills or shots to help me when I clench my hands and groan in agony: “Why, oh why, did all this have to happen? Why did I do it? If I had only thought! What will become of me now?” Such questions and probings about human destiny, about the wellsprings of meaning, and about far-reaching personal relationships arise far beyond pain, in deep suffering. I suffer when disasters happen to things and people who are precious to me. I suffer when I share someone else’s trouble.

Why couldn’t God have made a world without any suffering in it? God could easily have made a lot of unsuffering stones, all looking alike and not minding which stone was where. As long as they only sat there, without weathering or collisions, all would be well, I suppose. But they would merely exist. They wouldn’t care about what happened to other stones. They couldn’t decide either to be what they were, or not to be what they were. This would be a “perfect” world—perfect without suffering, and perfectly dead! We men are good at manufacturing unsuffering identical machines on assembly lines. But God has taken on the God-sized project of putting together a world made of people. He has created unique individuals, sensitive and alive, alert and a-loving, with freedom to change and decide their ways. People are so much more than machines.

A world of people necessarily contains the possibilities for either distressful suffering, or for loving peace. Men can easily turn God’s world into a torture chamber. But it could also become a world where people really want to live together, reflecting in all their relationships the glory of the interpersonal love of God, the Holy Trinity. To make us human, God had to make us free. It’s not his fault that we’ve usually chosen to distort his world into what is almost the opposite of his hoped-for kingdom of peace. But suffering or no suffering, I’d rather be a man than a stone or a machine. It’s better to have lived and loved and suffered as a human being than never to have lived at all.