From the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America:
Suffering is not a problem, but an unfathomable, theoretically incomprehensible mystery. We should not try to explain suffering or construct theories about the reasons for suffering in the world and systematic explanations that seek to reconcile innocent suffering with belief in a good and all powerful God. The pervading presence of senseless suffering in the world falls outside the bounds of every rational system. Remember how Dostoyevsky in his book Brothers Karamazov was seized with horror in contemplating the picture of suffering throughout the world, especially the suffering of the innocent and of the little children. The only answer, which Aliosha (representing Dostoyevsky’s own faith and attitude) can give is the image of the Crucified: He can pardon all; He can reconcile all, for He has measured the depth of our afflictions, of our loneliness, and of our pain. In the Crucified Christ, God does not remain a distant spectator of the undeserving suffering of the innocent but He participates in their suffering through the Cross and plants hope in the life of all afflicted persons through the Resurrection. When faced with the mystery of evil and suffering, the story of Jesus as the story of God is the only adequate response. The human quest for meaning and hope in tragic situations of affliction, draw from Christ’s death and Resurrection the power of life needed for sustenance. Thus, as Christians we do not argue against suffering, but tell a story.
Suffering is a difficult issue. On a recent blog post on Internetmonk.com, Miguel Ruiz made the following statement:
If I hear this one more time, I swear I’m gonna snap. “God has a plan.” Wonderful. And I almost thought that, maybe for just a moment, there was a lapse in omnipotence. Of course He has everything under control! That’s the problem: I’m hurting right now, and He’s sitting on His hands. I don’t like His plan right now, and reminding me that what’s going on in my life was, at the very least, passively allowed by the cosmic micromanager, that don’t cheer me up. Oh, but his plan is “not to do me harm,” eh? You’re not listening. I just said that I’m hurting right now. Somebody or something is doing me harm, so make up your mind: Is this a part of God’s plan, or did He delegate it to somebody else?
We sometimes make the mistake of saying that God has a plan for your life in such a way that we make him responsible for all of our suffering. But, God is not responsible for all our suffering. Rather, what Scripture says is that he has joined us in our suffering. In some ways, some suffering is explainable. But, in other ways, it is as though God says that suffering is not logical, is not explainable, is not tolerable, but it exists. God’s answer to suffering is not necessarily that he explains it but rather that he joins us in our suffering and says to us that, as Mr. Ruiz puts it, “God has a wonderful plan for our death.” Suffering is an intolerable violation of God’s plan for this world. In spite of that violation, God uses suffering to teach us, to mature us, and to remake us in his likeness. We must never make the mistake of saying that suffering is God’s will. Yet, we must also never make the mistake of saying that suffering contradicts God’s will and cannot be used by God to help us to grow into his likeness.
Ultimately we point to the Cross. God knows us. God identified with us. God joined us in our suffering. God died for us. Our suffering is not explained, except in limited instances. Rather, God does not explain our suffering. He merely says he joins us in our suffering. And, that is the mystery of suffering. It is not explainable. But, God says that he has joined us in our suffering. That is most definitely a mystery.