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If God is so Merciful, Why do the Innocent Suffer so Much?

Answers to Your Questions About Divine Mercy

By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Nov 29, 2006)
Not long ago I received a most poignant letter from a man named "Mr. Weaver," who poured out his heart on a subject that touches all of us at one time or another: the mystery of innocent suffering. Mr. Weaver wrote:

I have a few questions I need to ask. I have read a lot about the Divine Mercy and I recite the Chaplet every day. Now, according to Sister Faustina's Diary, Jesus told her that no one was excluded from His mercy. Also, He promised us we'd get whatever we ask of Him by reciting this chaplet.

I have put my trust in Him and asked for His help. My health has been poor in recent years and I cannot work. I've tried, believe me. I applied for Social Security disability but don't seem any closer to getting it than the day I first applied back in 2001. I also applied for Medicaid to help with medical treatment I desperately need. I still haven't been approved for that either. These are the things I have asked Jesus to help me with. My situation is desperate and it is really frustrating not getting the help I ask for.

Although Jesus did say that no one was excluded, how can we be sure? I'm not asking for anything I don't really need (financial help and medical treatment) yet where is His mercy? And Jesus did say we'd get whatever we ask for through His chaplet. Of course, He did attach strings to that. What we ask for must be in accordance with His will. Okay. My health problems are quite serious and need to be treated, and how could getting treatment not be in accordance with His will? Look in Matthew where Jesus told His apostles about the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. He told us the Father cared more about us than the birds and the flowers, and would always provide for our needs. "Seek first the kingdom of God and these things will be added to you." Well, I have been seeking God's kingdom, so where is the help I need? Medical treatment is a very basic need, and Jesus did promise help with these needs.



Mr. Weaver, I read your letter several times over, and my first, second, and third reaction was the same: you sound a lot like me. I have a 10-year-old daughter who was bullied in the first school we sent her to, so we switched schools, and she was bullied in the second one, too. After a year and a half we took her out of that school, and six months later started her in yet another one. Things went OK the first year, but as her fellow students realized that she was a straight-A student and a brain-box, they started to ostracize her there, too. Last week her belongings in school were vandalized. As usual, the school does virtually nothing to help or protect her. And so on it goes...

My little daughter's social sufferings (by the way, she has never done an ill deed to anyone at any school she has attended) have been the object of countless novenas, chaplets, and even pilgrimages by her mom and grandma — all, it seems, to no avail. Sometimes I get so frustrated that I look up at the sky and ask: "Lord, do you still work for a living? Why can't you DO something? Is a little humane treatment of my daughter by her peers too much to ask?" I shudder to think what kind of lasting damage she will suffer to her sense of self-worth as a child of God.

In short, Mr. Weaver, I know and share your feelings of frustration with divine providence. Often, I just cannot figure out what our allegedly merciful Lord is up to. It does not make much sense to me, and it makes me really angry at times. And when I look at the Bible, I am in good company. Read Psalm 77 on this, or the book of Job, or the Lamentations of Jeremiah. They couldn't always figure God out either. Even Jesus felt that way on the Cross: "My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

So, what is God up to when He permits innocent people to suffer — prolonged, grinding misery — and prayerful appeals to His mercy seem to fall on deaf ears? I honestly don't know.

But I have to set what I do not know against what I DO know. There IS a God of infinite power and wisdom and goodness; I know enough philosophy to be sure that we have very strong rational grounds for believing in the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of this universe. And I know that Jesus Christ was and is the true Son of God; I know enough historical evidence about Jesus to be able to say beyond a reasonable doubt that He was not a liar nor a lunatic, but just who He claimed to be. In addition to all that, I have known and experienced Him personally — His merciful and undeserved love for me — in the gospels, in the Blessed Sacrament, in prayer, in times of solitude, in the sun rising in the morning, and the wind rustling the trees, in His whisper in the depths of my heart, calling me to do good and shun evil. So I have met Him: I cannot deny that. No matter how far away He may seem to be at times, I cannot deny that I have known Him when He was near!

I wish I could understand why the infinitely powerful and merciful God has not granted my prayers about my little daughter — an innocent sufferer for sure. I wish I could understand why He does not grant your prayers for medical aid in a way that, to us, seems only merciful and right. But I can't fully understand these things. I just know that He knows so much more than we do — infinitely more — and He sees so much more than we see. Saint Paul wrote: "all things work together unto good to them that love God" (Rom 8:38). Saint Paul did not promise that we would be able to SEE how all things work out for good to those who trust God — only that they will. Only in heaven shall we see all things clearly, and all the reasons why (I Cor 13:12).

That's why the heart of St. Faustina's spirituality is not the Chaplet, or the Image, or the Feast, but the simple signature at the bottom of the Image: "Jesus, I trust in You." It means that we need to trust either that Jesus will grant us what we ask for in faith, or if not that, then He will grant whatever He knows is best for us, which somehow, some way, must be better for us than we could either ask or imagine. It has to be — just because He Is.

Got a question? E-mail me at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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Mary W., Omaha — Apr 10, 2007 - 8:16 EDT

This response is perfect, this is faith the way I believe Jesus wanted it.

TME — May 5, 2009 - 17:02 EDT

I do not share Mary W, of Omaha's view that this response is 'perfect.' In my opinion, it is flawed and ultimately, a cop-out. Put succinctly, in his fourth paragraph after his account of Mr. Weaver's letter, Dr. Stackpole clearly states "So what is God up to when he permits innocent people to suffer - prolonged, grinding misery - and prayerful appeals to his mercy seem to fall on deaf ears. I HONESTLY DON'T KNOW." (my caps) What this means is the the good Doctor really hasn't got a CLUE.

So let's take things to their barest essentials, shall we?

The Catholic church CLAIMS that their interpretation of God casts him as 'infinitely merciful' as well as 'all-knowing.' Therefore, by this definition: not only is God AWARE of the suffering of all innocents trapped in suffering, but God ALLOWS it. I submit to the good doctor that this is a fundamental dichotomy: A god that is all knowing and all merciful would, by it's very nature, be INCAPABLE of allowing such suffering to continue if it knew of that suffering's existence.

Therefore, one of two conditions must result: either God is NOT all knowing, or God is NOT infinitely merciful.

You may also dispense with the apologetics: I've heard it all before.

Catholic theology has been extremely presumptive, from time immemorial, in putting forth the concept that it has 'exclusive rights' on the 'correct' interpretation of the nature of the Creator. Age is NOT a precondition of accuracy. We ARE, after all, talking about an organization whose earliest thinkers were closer to the inception of philosophical and cognitive analysis, than to later and more substantive permutations of metaphysical thought. This reliance of the Catholic church upon the 'venerability' of its dogmatic theology is an insubstantial pretext for reliability and accuracy. I should further point out that the Catholic church's record on astrophysics is notably ridiculous - as is their record for taking responsibility for error - they didn't even get around to apologizing to Galileo until 1992...

The bottom line of Dr. Stackpole's answer to Mr. Weaver is that he doesn't KNOW the answer. The rest of his reply is just so much window-dressing to make his lack of knowledge more palatable.

It is not, in fact, rendered more palatable to those of us who are sick and tired of the same old didactic obfuscation: on the contrary, it is all the more insipid and odious.

You should simply have said, Dr. Stackpole, that you really don't know, or that it's a 'mystery,' and left it at that.

I would submit, however, that the Catholic hierarchy would do well to avail itself of some progressive thinking...as oxymoronic as it may seem to use two such diametrically opposed concepts in the same sentence. Mr. Weaver asked a legitimate question, for which you, by your own admission, had no real substantive answer.

Don't you think, then, that it might behoove you to TRY TO FIND OUT?

The Catholic church's hierarchy are a pathetic group of cowards hiding out in libraries whose books are covered with dust, relying upon the writings of a handful of thinkers that have been dead for centuries...

...and you wonder why we have been leaving the church in droves?

I'll spare you my thoughts regarding the recent turn of events surrounding the Catholic church in the United States. Every religion has its share of bad apples, I'm sure...and this includes Bishops and Cardinals...

You're living in the twenty-first century, Dr. Stackpole.

GROW UP...and take some responsibility for your lack of knowledge.

I AM — May 16, 2010 - 21:26 EDT

TME - it's easy to throw stones. I guess you have no sins of your own, since you cast them so easily at the Catholic Church and Dr. Stackpole, who admitted he did not have the answer & did his best to give the man hope and strengthen his faith. Just because God may allow evil in this world, caused by man's freewill and sin, doesn't mean that God is any less merciful. Could it be that evil exists to show the ultimate mercy and glory of God in the next and eternal life, even if this world isn't a bed of roses? hmmmm - now there's a thought, Timmy! (TME) Things don't always work out in this life - this isn't suppose to be Heaven...if it were, we would have no need to go there!

I see that you have all the answers (NOT) since you did nothing to answer Mr. Weaver's question yourself and only chose to run down a fellow believer and the Catholic Church - very Christain!

For your information, without the Catholic Church there would be no deposit of faith at all, including the Bible that protestants cling to as the sole authority of faith - who do you think comprised it? Did it just fall from the sky/heavens as a completed work - not!

You would do better to focus your energy on Christian unity, look for common ground, set your own ignorance aside, trust more and have faith in Jesus Christ, the all knowing & infinite God that you seem to trivialize and pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as there are many mysteries that we will not and are not supposed to fully comprehend, much less understand, in this life. We do the best we can to grow in faith & understanding and leave the rest to trust and faith.

God bless you - I said a prayer for you, Timmy and us all...May God bless us all.

B Wool — Jul 6, 2010 - 18:13 EDT

"So let's take things to their barest essentials, shall we?

The Catholic church CLAIMS that their interpretation of God casts him as 'infinitely merciful' as well as 'all-knowing.' Therefore, by this definition: not only is God AWARE of the suffering of all innocents trapped in suffering, but God ALLOWS it. I submit to the good doctor that this is a fundamental dichotomy: A god that is all knowing and all merciful would, by it's very nature, be INCAPABLE of allowing such suffering to continue if it knew of that suffering's existence.

Therefore, one of two conditions must result: either God is NOT all knowing, or God is NOT infinitely merciful." -TME


TME, I would like you to think about love for a moment. What is love? Is it a natural feeling we have when we see someone, such as love at first sight? No, that is more or less defined as infatuation. So what then is love?

Love is the decision, the free choice, to put another's desires and needs above one's own desires and needs.

Now, let us look at suffering. Not all suffering is bad. Many times suffering is used to teach something. A little boy, about five years old is playing in the kitchen while his mother cooks. The young boy is on a stool by the stove so that he is allowed to see into the pot of boiling water that he so enjoys watching. Today, however, the young boy reaches over and touches the pot out of curiosity. Almost instantly the boy cries out and withdraws his hand as his nerves shoot the message of pain and suffering to his mind.

The next day, the boy is in the same position, but this time he knows that touching the pot of boiling water is bad for him, and he will not do it.

That is suffering used as a natural tool for teaching. Granted, the mother could have told the child, and she probably did on many occasions. However, the boy is still curious and experience is the best teacher. Why? Because of suffering.

But what about suffering that is not used to teach? Starving babies, for example. Well, God is all-good and it does not make sense for him to allow this. What does not make sense to be caused by God is normally a sign of evil. Babies starving is a work of evil forces, who despice the innocence of youth. Well, why does God allow such evil?

Now we shall go back to why God created us. Was it not for love? We were created to love God, who is love, not because He needs it, but he, being love, desired someone to share this love with.

Well, what is love? As defined earlier, Love is a free choice.

But what does this have to do with this unexplainable evil? Evil is a lack of God, just as dark is the lack of light and cold is the lack of heat. Evil does not exist within itself. So why is there a lack of God in some places? Because God gives us free choice, and with free choice, there is rejection and acceptance of Him. Why does God not take away this free choice and make an evil-free enviroment? Because of love. Love would not exist if there was no free choice, and love is what we were created for.

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"You should simply have said, Dr. Stackpole, that you really don't know, or that it's a 'mystery,' and left it at that." -TME

Well, let us look at it this way. You spend time writing out how you feel about a difficult situation you are in, pleading for help. When you ask about this situation to someone, all they reply is nobody knows. How would that make you feel? Defiently not inspired. Maybe you might give up on life, fall into despair? The fact is, it would have a negative effect on a person's mental and spiritual health. As a doctor, it would be the exact opposite of what his job is. So, what does he do? He shares his story, connects with the man, and lets him know there is hope. Granted, he said he didn't know, but he also took care of the man's spiritual and mental health instead of leaving it to diminish to nothing.

---------------------------------------

"Catholic theology has been extremely presumptive, from time immemorial, in putting forth the concept that it has 'exclusive rights' on the 'correct' interpretation of the nature of the Creator" -TME

You disproved that in your own writing. Like you said, Dr. Stackpole said he didn't know.

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Peace to all who enter.
B Wool

N8 — Jul 19, 2010 - 0:19 EDT

I just want to thank all those that responded positively to this question. I also ponder on this a lot. But I think it's because there is evil everywhere in this world. The Devil feeds on it, so he picks the innocent to try to get us to steer away from God. He knows that they(the innocent)will only suffer temporarily, and will soon be in heaven where no such suffering exists. He IS All-knowing and ALL-merciful. He sees an 'infinite' amount more than us as someone else stated. I will never lose my faith, never. No matter what happens in my heart I know that God had a plan, and that plan is love. We are not suppose to comprehend it all, He want not have given us free will if that was so. "Blessed is he, who does not see, but still believes".(Matthew 11:6)

God Bless you all.

Mr.caleb mezie — Nov 7, 2011 - 22:03 EST

For my own contribution,i must say that God's time and man time are not the same,so he do things in his own appropriate time,On like the time of Lazarus,it was not the same with God time that was why he die and time of God came and he make him to raise from death,so my beloved friend my word is,In any situation you find your self don't ever depart from God because he must answer you when the time came.

JNo — Dec 16, 2012 - 21:25 EST

People are murdered raped and tortured. We say God will judge the person who commits this atrocity.
What about the suffering in poor countries, children dying of hunger in mass numbers, this not the result of any human action? Who will take responsibility for this?


Kne — Feb 13, 2013 - 10:05 EST

SSI and Medicare are a godless system were money is taken from one who earned it to be given to another who has not. No wonder God hasn't granted the request. There are places he can get help without getting into that system.
As one whose son is very ill with a chronic disease who has never done anything wrong to anyone have myself questioned the existence of a God. But doesn't the Bible teach that we will suffer? The innocent will suffer? Didn't God warn Adam that death, pain and suffering would enter this world if he disobeyed? How would we know we have a severed relationship with God if we lived in a paradise or if only bad things happened to bad people? We all have evil within us do we not? Can anyone honestly say they have never committed a sin? Besides, it is not about what we have or have not done, it is the fact that we are fallen beings who will not become fully restored until we see Him face to face.
I wonder what would happen if every person on earth bowed down and asked God to forgive them at the same time, and and said it sincerely? Perhaps it is not God who allows it but we who prevent it.


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