How do you know what to say to grieving relatives (especially parents of dead children) and other people who are greatly suffering?
Truth to tell, this is the question I have been dreading most because I simply do not have an adequate response. [And, I would bet, neither does anyone else — no matter how wise or intelligent.] The problem of suffering and, especially, of the innocent suffering of children and the like is one that constantly haunts me.
I try to avoid platitudes and I don’t pretend that I have any [worthwhile] answers. I tell those affected that I am as confused and perplexed as they are. I try to mean it when I say that, nonetheless, I believe that God is close to those who are suffering and desires that their pain should cease. As difficult as it was for Abram to believe that God would bless Sara and himself with untold generations of off-spring, so it is tough for me to believe that suffering has any authentic meaning. But I cling to this belief against all the odds. Otherwise, my faith has no meaning.
I grew up in a family that was all about “offering it up” and, while I don’t want to dismiss the good that was intended, I think that in the Church it led to a passivity and an un-reflective culture of victimization that simply was not sound.
Would that I have a better answer to offer…