The origin of pain and suffering

What is the origin of pain and suffering.

A popular question among agnostics is “If there is a God why does he allow so much pain and suffering” How is one child born healthy and another born with a disability. I came to rest on a theory that it is the work of the devil which brings pain and suffering into our lives.

A few years later I decided to read the bible and came across this passage…

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 (NIV)

So my theory was wrong but what exactly did Jesus mean by “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” It sounds like he is saying that God made this guy blind so that Jesus could come along and heal him. That sounds so cruel. What about the rest of the disabled people who will never get healed. And so I chose to accept that pain and suffering is a mystery to us.

Fast forward and I find this interpretation in the CEV.

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Teacher, why was this man born blind? Was it because he or his parents sinned?” “No, it wasn’t!” Jesus answered. "But because of his blindness, you will see God work a miracle for him.” John 9:1-3 (CEV)

I learnt that translating this from Greek is tricky and that this is the correct translation. So it seems that I’m back where I was. Pain and suffering is the result if Satan.

Give me your thoughts, what is the origin of pain and suffering.

CCC - The Fall. <- sin and suffering and death entered the world at this point.

405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

St. Paul explains the meaning of suffering

A Pope’s Answer To The Problem of Pain



Father MacIntyre’s Commentary on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Lent
“The actual case of the blind man is made an instance in point. His calamity had been permitted in order that the glory of God might be manifested by the miracle that was about to be performed.”

Thank you CRV for those links

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You’re welcome - I hope they were of some help to you.

CRV has given you a very documented answer, I can’t do that but can give you one that is undocumented cos I can never remember references, so it depends what you want.

Nothing ever happens without God’s knowledge of course we know this, by his will, either his direct or permissive will. God will at times give us or allow us to have suffering or pain as a favour to us. This can seem very difficult to understand, but it is not if you think of it in terms of eternal life. Yes if you think in this short little life, it is hard to comprehend how living it in pain or disabled can be a favour from God, but if you remember this is but a tiny blink of time it is easier to understand. Everything God does is for love of you and for your good and the good of all mankind. So if it will make you more likely to attain eternal life to be disabled or in pain, then it will be given. Sometimes our lives are lived in a disordered manner due to sin and so God gives us an illness or may allow suffering to come upon us (perhaps for us or a family member) which is to draw us back into him (by us I mean the family and ourselves). Think about it, how often does an illness or pain or disability bring a family or community together and cause them to show kindness and charity to each other? You may notice that natural disasters do this for the world in general (but that’s another topic). During times of illness and suffering, families rally together and often even strangers may be called upon to offer charity. So the internal lives of many move in the right direction and even though pain and suffering are on the outside for a short time (even a lifetime is a short time) the inside is filled with the workings of the Holy Spirit as people grow in virtue and the chance of going to God is getting better and better as he draws us to him in love. We do have to comply with God’s grace though. So we should thank him and praise him for each little suffering and of course offer our acceptance of his will to him each moment as it is this love of his that draws us ever nearer to him and gives us chance after chance to redeem ourselves. That is the miracle Jesus talks of in the gospel, our redemption. I hope that makes some sense.

There are three forms of evil: physical, moral, and metaphysical. The first two are said to arise from man and the metaphysical from God, as a necessity for creation.

Metaphysical evil is the limitation by one another of various component parts of the natural world. Through this mutual limitation natural objects are for the most part prevented from attaining to their full or ideal perfection, whether by the constant pressure of physical condition, or by sudden catastrophes. …

Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals whence arises, among human beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds. Thus evil, from the point of view of human welfare, is what ought not to exist.

Sharpe, A. (1909). Evil. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

I read those articles linked up by CRV. Although informative they’ve basically left me at the same spot, a spot which I’m satisfied with. I accept that it is a mystery that the human mind will never be able to fully comprehend. All I can do is trust in God’s plan and do what i can to be saved for we know that the eternal suffering endured in hell is much greater that the sufferings of earth.

Good point made by Bluebright about comparing this moment with eternal life. Eternity is difficult to grasp so i break it down like this. Say I lived 100 years of suffering and got saved. After 1000 years that time on earth will be only 0.1. After 100,000 years it would be 0.001. After 10,000,000 years it would be 0.00001 and so on.

He existed so Jesus could cure him with a miracle to show the power of God.

I think it is best to consider it a mystery. If you believe in an omnipotent good God, then you have to accept pain and suffering as a mystery. Otherwise, you will always come back to “if He is omnipotent, and if He is good, He would do what needs to be done to alleviate pain and suffering”.

I go with it being a mystery. At least on the days I believe in God.

Pin a note on the fridge:

“God believes in me 24/7/365.”

We all need reminders on a daily basis.

As to suffering, read up on it. It is our pathway to follow Christ - Who suffered death that we might have eternal life. The great Saints enjoyed suffering - enjoyed it! - for their love of God. It is when we suffer that we are most Christ-like.

I don’t believe in the concept of redemptive suffering. I understand it is what the Church teaches. I don’t believe in it, though. It is why I accept pain and suffering as a mystery.

So, it is a useless negative? No wonder you are experiencing a crisis of faith!
Arise From Darkness
Making Sense of Suffering
Joy in Suffering

No. I don’t say it is useless, at all. I just say it is a mystery. Something we aren’t able to understand. Something that has a purpose most likely, but a purpose we won’t know or understand in this lifetime.

I am not having a crisis of faith. I am on a faith journey, just like anyone else.

I am one of those people who is quite comfortable coming to the conclusion that we don’t have to have an answer for everything in the life. For me, pain and suffering is one of those things.

I am agnostic, but rest assured, I believe in God just about every day. I should have said, depending on what kind of God I am believing in…now that can fluctuate…but omnipotent and good are characteristics I never doubt.

My recommendations stil stand.

Newbie here - and this is a tough topic. What I am about to say are purely my own and not provided with any authority other than I have tried to wrestle with the same question.

Created in the image and likeness of God - we were created perfect. Having all of the power God wished for us to have humanity “chose” to displease Him - because they “could”. In doing so, it visits upon us - in perfect justice - the consequences of “bad choice”. Suffering enters with “the fall” - but even in that consequence the hand of a merciful God is evident.

Apart from creation itself, Suffering is the only other constant and ongoing physical evidence of “supernatural intervention” in our lives/world. It is where we can see and/or experience the reality of God. Nature is beautiful, it tends to abor and avoid suffering - notice it always seeks to mitigate disruption. Therefore suffering is not natural, it’s origin must be supernatural. If we cant see and acknowledge God in the truth and beauty of His creation, we WILL encounter Him in the alternate evidence of “suffering”. He has not left us with any choice to avoid His encounter. He has made suffering available to us because - apart from faith - it is the only other way for us to see and feel His presence.

(Note: because the western world has become wealthy it is seeing less of Him and therefore drifting away. You will find that every society that has a higher level of suffering has a deeper realisation of God. He is more evident to them. )

I recognise 3 types of suffering:
Suffering from the sin/wrong doing of others (bad)
Suffering from the sin/wrong doing of ourselves (bad)
Suffering for our redemption (Christs Suffering - good)

Until Christ came, suffering was considered as the consequence of the first 2. The Incarnation of God into humanity through Christ who redeemed us by His suffering has raised the “status” of all earthly suffering - if willingly joined to the Fathers will (as Christ did) - to category 3. It is “our choice” to accept our suffering and offer it in this way. In the words of St. Paul - it is in our weakness He shows His strength.

Another perspective from Bishop Robert Barron is that suffering is the ultimate receptacle of HOPE. For intelligent life to have meaning it seeks “purpose”. We work in the hope to achieve “some” goal/purpose. When life is “hope-less” it is destroyed in despair. We take on suffering/discomfort/inconvenience in the hope of achieving some “other good” eg we climb the mountain to get the view. We work hard to secure a future etc etc. If we as humans can take on suffering to give effect to the hope of a bigger “good”, why would we think that God does not allow suffering for the same purpose. God has been loving and generous on 2 counts- first he creates us in his likeness and image with no suffering but just one instruction. Then when we disobey, He even redeems our bad choices by using it for greater good. In fact, by sending His Son to die for our wrong doing, He has given us the “HOPE” that by believing and resting in Him, even deserved death is reversed to eternal joyful life with Him. Now that must be “good news” indeed.

Romans 8
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility,
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 2
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;

Through suffering, human beings are incorporated into the pain of Christ. Suffering gives rise to love for those who suffer, a disinterested love to help them by relieving it. This is now official and organized through health-care institutions and the professionals who work in them, and also through volunteers. It is a matter of a real vocation, especially when one is united to the Church with a Christian profession.

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