Strength In Weakness is a booklet authored by Bishop Irenei of ROCOR that I picked up in the Jordanville monastery bookstore. It offers a simple but clear answer for those who are confused as to why God allows us to suffer.
The spiritual fruits of suffering
Suffering has the power, despite its origin so often in tragedy, to draw us into a better character of life—and this God permits, for He knows that it can change us.
Suffering opens the reality of the heart—what is good within it, as well as what is bad and requires healing. In such a circumstance the life of the Gospel is tested and made perfect—for that which is tested is tried, and that which is tried becomes stronger, like iron in the forge, and the weakness of man’s nature is made mighty and capable of bearing the grace of God.
…suffering befalls us for many reasons and from many sources. Some suffering comes from God, Who rebukes and chastises those whom He loves; some comes from the world; some from ourselves; some from the demons. But whatever its origin, the suffering that we receive in faith is that which can save us.
St. Maximus the Confessor: “Suffering cleanses the soul infected with the filth of sensual pleasure and detaches it completely from material things by showing it the penalty incurred as a result of its affected for them. This is why God in His justice allows the devil to afflict men with torments.”
Strength through suffering
…in order for God’s power to be made perfect in a man, that man must become weak. He must be rid of the “strength” that resides in his flesh and his will, and learn to be emptied of its illusive power. Then, in a life that is weakened of all its self-possessive fortitude, broken down into spiritual emptiness (often, precisely through physical trials), the Lord fills the heart with a strength that at last has room to reside there.
This book would be helpful for those who are experiencing feelings of despair during a difficult trial, such as a major illness, divorce, or general life crisis. It can give you “fast-acting” medicine to help endure the pain. On the other hand, a “slow-acting” medicine that also helps you understand why God allows us to suffer from a more big-picture view is God’s Revelation To The Human Heart by Father Seraphim Rose.
Learn More: Strength In Weakness