If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there so much suffering in this world?
For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).
Suffering in itself does not work for the good or automatically make us holy. "If it did, all those in hell would be saved, for they endure great suffering and that pain is eternal.
It is because Jesus suffered and we unite our pain to His that suffering changes and transforms us. It is because His Spirit dwells in our souls through Baptism that He suffers when we suffer" (see more here).
Here are five of the reasons God allows us to suffer. There are many, many more reasons but most of them we won’t understand in this life. The key is to accept the suffering we experience with trust, unite it with Christ’s suffering & offer it with love to God:
• WIN 1. We benefit from the way it purifies our faith, hope and love and, at the same time, heals the temporal consequences of our sins.
1 Peter 1:6-9
"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls."
"Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord . . . for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he receives."
What are the temporal consequences of sin? Read more about that here or here).
• WIN 2. We also benefit because it increases our capacity to love and our growth in virtue - makes us more like Christ. This increases the degree of glory we will enjoy in heaven.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
2 Corinthians 4:17
"For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Jesus said to St. Angela of Foligna: "Make of yourself a capacity and I will make myself a torrent!" Learn how to make yourself a capacity here.
• WIN 3. It benefits others when we offer our sufferings up as a prayer of intercession for them.
On July 13, 1917 Our Lady of Fatima recommended to the three shepherd children:
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice:
O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
In the same apparition, Our Lady added:
"When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery:
“O my Jesus, forgive us, save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need.”
The Angel of Peace also told the three shepherd children:
“Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High God. Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it God as an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and in supplication for the conversion of sinners.”
Our Lady told them:
"Many souls go to hell because there is no one to pray or make a sacrifice for them" (August, 1917).
Read more about this here or here.
• WIN 4. It increases the flow of grace in the world.
As Christians, our prayers, actions, sacrifices and sufferings offered up in union with Christ serve as conduits, in a sense, of God’s grace. And it is God’s grace that redeems fallen humanity, rolls back the forces of evil, enlightens sin-darkened hearts, restores hope to those in despair, fills us with joy, wisdom, and strength… God’s Kingdom flourishes, in individuals, families, parishes, and societies, when the flow of grace is abundant. To increase the value of our offering (our merits) through these means is to do our part to increase the flow of God’s grace in, through, and around us (read more here).
• WIN 5. Finally, it can be offered as an indulgence for the holy souls in purgatory. This doubles the value of the offering!
The term "indulgences" refers to specific prayers and actions, permeated with a spirit of penance, that are a channel of God’s healing grace. Once a person has repented of his sins and received forgiveness from Christ (through the Sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal sins), indulgences help to further the healing process that is needed for himself or for a Holy Soul in Purgatory and for the people that have been hurt by his sins (read more about indulgences here or here).
In conclusion, here is a great explanation about the value of uniting everything we do, especially our suffering to Christ:
"When a living member of the mystical body of Jesus Christ performs a good work with the power which he receives from the Head (Jesus Christ), then that is a work of the Head performed through that member and, as the work of the Redeemer, it greatly increases the treasure of merits which He acquired for us during His holy life on earth. Just as the effects of the Redemption did not cease with the life of Christ on earth, so neither is the treasure of His merits replenished solely with what He realized while living in the flesh, but it is always increasing with what He continues to suffer in His members. The Head did what was His to do, the members must effect that which falls to their part. Truly it is Jesus Christ who does all things but He does not do them all personally. Some things He did while He lived on earth, but the rest He effects through His members here below. But for Him there is no difference, so intimately is He joined by love to this body. Thus He places the merits of His members in the same treasury with His own as if they were all one" (Fr. John Arintero, The Mystical Evolution).
We are all contributing to the same treasury. Every single living member of the body of Christ, in union with Him, has the potential to be filling this "treasury" with every loving prayer, action or offering of suffering done "through Him, with Him, and in Him." Such is our great dignity in Christ. It's hard to fathom the great gift we have been given through Him.