The phrase “God’s will” is used for a lot of things that I’m pretty sure don’t have anything to do with God or God’s will. For example, whenever someone has suffered a heart-breaking loss (say, of a loved one), in trying to comfort them, some well-meaning friend will say “It was God’s will.” I wonder if these people have ever thought about what they’re saying. Basically, they’re telling this poor, grieving soul that the one being they thought they could turn to for help (God) is the one responsible for their plight in first place. What an awful thing to say. It takes away what little hope they might have had and replaces with the knowledge that our Creator is a harsh and arbitrary overseer who singles people out for suffering and hardship to further some unknown plan for the universe.
I don’t think it works that way; if it does, God is colossal jerk. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather believe in a God who’s a loving parent; the kind who would never cause their children pain. A parent whose only plan is to show us their love and have a relationship with us. A God whose will is that we love them (and each other) wholly and unconditionally. For me, the idea that God either causes or allows suffering is extremely depressing.
An alternative to the “God’s will” answer is that we’re broken people, living in a broken world. While it’s a better answer than “it is God’s will” it still sucks. The truth is, there will probably never be a satisfactory answer to the question “Why do we suffer?”because we’re human, and the only way we have of expressing ideas, thoughts or feelings is through words. And, at times like these, words fail. Language isn’t the greatest medium for communicating things about God; those things can’t be broken down and quantified like a math equation or a science experiment. Poetry probably comes closest and even that falls short. The question remains, what should you say to someone who’s suffering?
How about nothing? Sometimes, the best thing you do for someone who is who’s in a dark place is just be there. Hugh Hollowell tells a story from the early days of Love Wins when someone needed his help to pay their power bill. It was only $120, but things were tight and it was money he just didn’t have. When he told them he didn’t have it, they became a little upset, telling him if he was really their friend he’d give them the money. He said “I can’t keep your lights on, but I will come and sit in the dark with you after they turn them off.” While that can feel extremely unsatisfying, sometimes it’s all you can do. Who knows, it may even be enough.