2014: The Year of the Suffering Servant

I sit in a coffee shop in my hometown, sipping a latte and reflecting on the the world in an attempt to write this blog. I’m not making much progress. In a rare turn of events, I’m left without much to say.

I just read a story from the UN’s News Service. It was one of those  “Look Back at 2014” articles which recount major events of the year. The headline reads: “Conflict, disease, human rights abuses and food insecurity combined to make 2014 a year marked by untold human misery.”

Ebola. The rise of the Islamic State. The release of the US Senate’s “Torture Report.” War between Israel and Palestine. War and revolution in Ukraine. The continued civil war in Syria. “Untold human misery” is indeed an apt description of 2014.

I intended this piece to be a reflection on the year and a call for continued progress in the new year. Instead, I am left with the perennial question of humanity: Why? This question is commonly phrased: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why are innocent children allowed to suffer?  Why are people allowed to starve to death in the slums and migrants permitted to perish as they pursue a better life for themselves and for their families?  Why do governments continue to commit atrocities against their own people? Why do abortionists continue to kill children in the womb?

When we ask these questions, we are looking for comfort. We are looking for reasons that might make us feel better about the human condition.

One might answer that human suffering is the result of the fall. That answer works when considered on a general level, but it does not lend itself to specificity and offers me little solace when I am confronted with the suffering of the innocent, particularly the suffering of children. I am supposed to be comforted by the notion that children suffer because the first man and woman rejected God’s plan?

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Although we cannot really answer why, in specific situations, people are allowed to suffer, we can find a purpose in the redemption of human suffering on the Cross. We can unite our sufferings with those of Christ, for our own good and the good of His Church. Suffering affords us this rather marvelous opportunity to grow in holiness.

I suppose that’s the way we should look back at 2014. As an opportunity to suffer for Christ and with Christ.