Suffering and pain as friends …

In our day we need to recapture a sense of mystery. Pascal made the distinction between a mystery and a problem, and it is one that we tend to forget. A problem is an obstacle, a conundrum, something that can in principle be formulated and solved. A mystery is utterly different. It lies beyond us, it is too rich for our understanding. It can be entered into, explored, even inhabited; but it can never be exhausted or fathomed.

Our age dislikes intensely the idea of mystery, because it directly exposes our limitations. The thought that there could be something, or someone, beyond human comprehension or imagining is, of course, exciting, but it is also belittling. It puts us in our place and the place is not at the centre. Science has played an important part here, at once dispelling apparent mystery and solving problems, and continually pushing forward boundaries of human knowledge.

The experience of suffering, and very important, the experience of failure bring us face to face with mystery. They are stern but effective teachers of the ways of God, unless, of course, they lead to bitterness and rancour. They cause us to question our priorities, they bring a new perspective and lead us sometimes from desperation to seek and find a different meaning and purpose in our lives. Coming to us as unwelcome visitors suffering and pain can, if handled well, turn out to be friends.

[Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB: The Mystery of the Cross, p. 3-4)

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