To live is to suffer. No matter how hard we try to avoid suffering, it's not going away. Sometimes we will suffer to the limit of what we can bear, and at some point we will ask God, Why?
We should get one thing straight up front: Man's Original Sin introduced suffering into this world (read more about how that happened, here). But though we humans brought suffering upon ourselves, God remains a loving Father. He allows suffering, yes, but not for our harm; He allows us to undergo suffering so that we might be healed.
Here's my real life experience to help illustrate the concept:
When my fourth child was 21 months old, a large metal toy truck fell off a bed and struck his mouth, resulting in a deep gash above his lip. After the initial injury and tears, he recovered his composure and was feeling fine, even as I drove him to the hospital for stitches. My father met us there, and my son played happily with us in the ER waiting room, having no idea what was to come.
When we were finally brought to an examining room, my baby began to get a bit uncomfortable. The lights were too bright, and a strange lady was in his face, pushing around near his wound. He became increasingly upset and signaled to me and grandpa that he wanted to get down. We wouldn't let him.
I held my baby down while the doctor injected his lip. I felt sick when I saw the panic in his eyes, yet I continued to pin him firmly to the table as the scary woman forced a sharp, hooked needle in and out of his flesh. He was screaming and could barely hear my soothing words. But worse, he was pleading to me, repeatedly calling my name and begging, "Mama, no!!"
As I facilitated this torture, my baby became more and more frightened. He cried out to grandpa for help, and none came. Grandpa stood by with gentle words and concerned eyes, but he did not rescue the grandson who trusted him and expected protection. My boy's tear-choked words were limited by his age, but his terrified expression spoke directly to me: Why are you helping her? Why don't you make it stop? Don't you love me?
Yes, I loved him, and yes I had the power to end his suffering, but I wasn't going to do it. I knew something that he couldn't have known then: I was allowing this suffering for his healing and restoration, not for his harm. I could be trusted. His toddler mind, of course, didn't understand.
Now that dear son is fourteen years old and his mind has expanded. He has heard the story, even smiles at the retelling, and he understands. What was a dark mystery to him then makes perfect sense to him today.
Thanks to Jesus and His Cross, Christians have a glimpse into the mystery of redemptive suffering. God knows what our souls need to be restored, and even in the midst of our greatest trials, He can be trusted. He is a good Father and He loves His children. We may not fully understand why a particular cross was given to us, but we trust that it's for our healing. And when all is revealed in Heaven one day, when our minds are expanded and our Father shows us how our sufferings worked for our good, we will joyfully understand.
"It is in suffering that we are withdrawn from the bright superficial film of existence, from the sway of time and mere things and find ourselves in the presence of profounder truth."
+ Fr. Yves Conger, French priest-theologian.
"Life is like a bad night in a bad inn."
+ St. Teresa of Avila