Why does God allow people to suffer?
As Pope John Paul II indicated in his Apostolic Letter On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, there is always a certain amount of mystery in suffering. That is especially true of natural disasters. Suffering may be easier to explain when it results from the misuse of human freedom.
In the cases of Mary and Jesus and their suffering, we might recast the question as, “Once God gave human beings a free will, how could God not allow them to suffer?” Mary was forced to ride an ass sixty- four miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem because the emperor was free to demand it. Just as God gave Mary a free will and the ability to say yes to being the mother of Jesus, God gave the emperor a free will that enabled him to decree a census with difficulties for other people. Just as Jesus was able to say, “Not my will but yours be done,” his persecutors were able to cry, “Crucify him!”
Suffering can come to others from humans’ misuse of freedom. But, again, when God chooses to let us be human, to make choices for good and evil, how could God constantly step in and say, “No, in this case I will not let you do this!”? To take away the freedom of the evildoer takes away the merit and the glory of the saint who freely says, “Yes, whatever it costs me, I will be faithful to God’s will.”
What does she then have to say to the mother today who risks her life to give birth to a child?
What meaning does she have for the wife and mother who lives in poverty?
For the mother who suffers watching her child waste away from cancer?
If God had not allowed Mary to experience hardship, pain and suffering, what would she have to say to us about these things?
What inspiration could she have for us if God had said to her that she would never have to worry about anything again, never lack for anything, would always have a comfortable existence and a life of plenty‘? Mary could experience what she did because she was one of us just as Jesus was one of us. Mary can be praised and honoured because she accepted pain and suffering to do God’s work.