Suffering and Hope

Whether you are currently in the process of a miscarriage or it happened months or years ago, most people eventually face one question: Why?

Why did God allow me to experience the hope of a new birth, only to be faced with death? Why would He ever want to cause us pain? Why does He allow me to suffer?

These are hard questions to ask and even harder ones to answer. Much of the meaning of suffering is still a mystery to us on earth, who are not able to fully comprehend God’s plan for the world, let along ourselves. In spite of this, below is an attempt at explaining what we do know about suffering and what our response can be in a time of grief.


Does God create evil and suffering?

In the beginning, everything that God created, including humans, was “very good” (Gen: 1:31). Suffering and death was never part of the original plan. However, God gave us free will so we could choose to love Him rather than be forced to do so. Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, “human nature is weakened in its powers; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the domination of death; and inclined to sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 400).

God, who is all good, does not create evil. He does, however, allow suffering and evil in our lives, which often reveals to us our dependence on Him.


Is suffering a punishment?

The death of your child is in no way a punishment from God. You did nothing to deserve this suffering the same as Job did nothing to deserve his (see the Book of Job in the Bible, as well as an explanation in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter, below).


What is the purpose of suffering?

There are many reasons God allows us to suffer. When we see everything in this world as preparation for the next, we can see that God often uses suffering to help us in that formation for eternal life. When we are weakest, that is when we are most ready to grow in humility and surrender everything to the One who loves us. It is “to make us rely, not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Remember that Christ died to give us salvation and eternal life; He didn’t die to save us from suffering here on earth. To put it another way, we are all called to be Christ-like, and often we think of this in terms of being humble, generous, and loving; but although Christ was all of those things, He also was willing to take on the sins of all humanity and to die in this life so that we may have life in heaven. We are called to be Christ-like in this way as well.

While it may feel like a paradox, suffering is truly an opportunity to come to love God more. It also makes us vulnerable enough to accept more graces, which can strengthen our courage to move forward and help us to remember not only what we’ve lost but what we’ve been given, and to give God the glory for all of it. As the Lord said to St. Gemma Galgani, He allows suffering “that souls may fasten their affections upon no one, but find all con­tent in Me alone. My daughter, if you do not feel the cross it cannot be called a cross. Be sure that under the cross you will not be lost. The demon has no strength against those souls who for My love groan under the cross.”

Finally, we are also called to participate in His work of redemption through our own suffering by offering it back to Him. Christ offered up Himself so that we might have eternal life (as well as our children!). We, too, are called to use our suffering for a good purpose. St. Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the body, that is the church . . . ” (Colossians 1:24). Through God’s grace, you are able to offer your suffering for your marriage, for your other or future children, or for any other intention you choose. You are uniting your suffering with Christ’s suffering on the cross, and in choosing this, our suffering becomes redemptive for the sake of others.


Can’t God help me?

As we talked about above, God uses suffering to lead you closer to Himself. He also most certainly helps you, if you choose to accept the graces that come with your suffering. You may not feel like He is near, but keep grieving, keep sharing your story, and most of all, keep praying. You may need to forgive God for your pain, or forgive others for insensitive comments, or forgive yourself for placing the blame (whether on you or someone else). If that’s the case, talk it out (or write it out) with God. Right now, you can choose a life of bitterness… or you can choose to allow yourself to be loved, and to know that you are not alone in your pain.

Eventually, you will begin to heal. You will get stronger, even if the pain of this suffering never fully leaves you. Please know that as you cry, God is with you. God is holding you. He is carrying you, and He is healing you. We are praying for you as well.


Our Highest Priority

No matter when you lost your child, one of the typical responses to God is anger. This is completely natural. But while you may be angry at God, you can also begin to talk to Him more and ask for peace, hope, and guidance in this time of trial. Find ways to grieve that are beneficial to your spiritual life and which will make you into a better person; this can be the legacy of your child’s life. God truly is all-knowing and all-loving, and His deepest desire is to have you join Him forever.

If you are Catholic, your highest priority is to become a saint and join God in heaven at the end of your life. All of the beauty in this life is just a small inkling of what we will experience when, with God’s grace, we get there; and there will be no more suffering. With God, you have created a completely new, eternal being, and he or she is a beautiful addition to Heaven.

The crucial thing to remember after you have lost your child is that they will never, ever have to suffer. He or she is now in the presence of the Almighty, experiencing only pure joy, forever. And we pray that you will be able to join them one day.


For more reading on the meaning of suffering:

Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering (John Paul II)

A Catholic Reflection on the Meaning of Suffering

The Book of Job