Book Review: ‘Finding God In Suffering’


Regardless of who you are we all will experience suffering in our lives, whether it be from physical pain (none of us get out of here alive), emotional pain due to divorce or a death of a loved one, family feuds, poverty and homelessness, mental health, or one of the seven deadly sins. One’s soul may be in pain, too, without one recognizing it if one fails to realize the harm, he or she has caused others in his or her life or the harm one is causing to one’s own soul.
Father Christopher M. Mahar, Ph.D, S.T.D., who now serves as pastor of St. Augustine Parish, Providence, explains in his book, “Finding God In Suffering,” how we can turn to God and follow His example by recognizing he gave His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer on the Cross to redeem us of our sins. Therefore, we can offer up our sufferings to God for the forgiveness of our sins and for the sins of others.
Father Mahar notes the Bible and scripture to introduce the reader to the term redemptive suffering. Redemptive suffering is cooperating with Christ’s redemptive work by offering our suffering to God, who redeems us from our transgressions.
Father Mahar brings out many examples of how some of the greatest sinners became Saints. One of the many examples he cites is that many of us, much like the Apostle Paul, need to hit rock bottom in our lives before we turn our lives over to Christ. Through God’s redeeming grace, Paul became forgiven for all his transgressions, and he became a leader and defender of Christ. St. Paul was willing to die for his allegiance to our Father.
In the text, it is noted that many of us see the pain of others, however, we need to act to mitigate one’s pain if it is at all possible through the blessings God bestowed upon us. Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and many other saints were discussed in the book, on how saints used their resources and talents to heal those in need.
The book presents scripture, biblical examples, and the personal experience Father Mahar has witnessed in his life to provide us with concrete examples on how our own actions and sufferings can be offered up to others to be a redeeming grace towards others.
At the end of each chapter, readers will find reflective questions to review and expand upon the chapter’s content relative to one’s own life. At the end of the book, there are scriptures and prayers for those seeking comfort from pain they may be experiencing.
Working in corrections as an educator for 34 years, I feel I have a prison ministry. My students are facing their personal passion on Earth by being removed from their loved ones, their jobs, and freedoms in order to pay the price for their sins. I remind my students that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are all equal in the eyes of God. I add, that some of the greatest sinners became saints. And while my students ask me to pray for them, I ask them to pray for me.
As Father Mahar notes we all have the moral obligation to live according to the teachings of Christ, and that requires us to heal those who are hurting, and to do no harm. Those who have been given greatest power in society have the greatest moral obligation to do good and not harm with that power. Our elected leaders, judges, lawyers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers, police, counsellors, and others that have the power to help those under their care have the moral obligation to work on ameliorating the problems one has rather than exacerbating the problems one is experiencing.
Father Mahar adds that we should be willing to defend God’s teaching even if one suffers in doing so. Many of the Apostles and Martyrs suffered and were killed in defense of our Lord’s teachings.
Finding God In Suffering is an outstanding read for not only those of the Catholic faith, but for the people from all walks of life regardless of where one is on this life journey. While we will all experience some type of suffering in our lives, one must remember to offer up our sufferings for the transgressions we have in our lives.
Dr. Albert Alba is an Adult Correctional Educator at Rhode Island Department of Corrections.