Pain and suffering are difficult by definition. Recently Calah Alexander took issue with people who tell her, “God will never give you anything you can’t handle,” because people are often overwhelmed by situations they simply do not have the resources to cope with. Telling such a person that “God will never give you anything you can’t handle” can seem like a cruel joke: if only you were more in tune with God, it seems to say, you’d be coping with this.
I think there are other ways to understand that particular aphorism, but with or without it, the problem remains. What do you with a hopeless situation? What do you say to someone in a hopeless situation?
Pope Francis points the way in paragraph 6 of Evangelii Gaudium:
I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).
God is faithful; His love lasts; this present pain will not. Even if I am stricken unto death, God waits on the other side…and if I keep Jesus at my side, well, at least He knows the way.
Am I compassionate enough to deliver this message to someone in great distress in a way that’s helpful to them? I doubt it; if I tried, I think I’d probably just turn out to be one of the annoying folks Calah took issue with. But in my own trials (trivial though they are) I find it helps me to remember it.