Cliché but Serious Question: Why Do Children Get Terrible Diseases (i.e.: Cancer)?

Advorsor

Sparrow
Can someone walk me through their thoughts on this? This is something I've always struggled with and I'm sure everyone has heard it asked in different variants.

I can understand God deciding to take someone early in life which I guess is ok/part of the plan..

I'm more concerned about the suffering aspect of this. Why does he allow this to happen? Maybe "allow" isn't the right word here but looking forward to hearing what you think.
 
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redbeard

Hummingbird
Moderator
A fantastic book on this subject is Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence.

Here's a choice quote:

"SICKNESS AND INFIRMITY
We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so. "For my part" says St. Alphonsus, "I call illness the touchstone of the spirit, for it is then that the true virtue of a man is discovered." If we feel ourselves becoming impatient or rebellious we should endeavor to repress such feelings and be deeply ashamed of any attempt at opposition to the just decrees of an all-wise God.

St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain. One of his followers said to him, "Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you." Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words: "If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me." Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said "I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me. I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right. I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishment of your holy will is my greatest consolation."

And in fact if, as St. Ephraim observes, a mule-driver knows how much his mule can carry and does not try to kill it by overloading it, and if the potter knows how long theclay should bake to be suitable for use and does not leave it longer in the kiln than is necessary, then it would show very little appreciation of God to venture to think that He who is wisdom itself and loves us with an infinite love would load our backs with too heavy a burden or leave us longer than is necessary in the fire of tribulation. We can be quite sure that the fire will not last longer or be hotter than is necessary to bake our clay to the right point"
 

Advorsor

Sparrow
A fantastic book on this subject is Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence.

Here's a choice quote:

"SICKNESS AND INFIRMITY
We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so. "For my part" says St. Alphonsus, "I call illness the touchstone of the spirit, for it is then that the true virtue of a man is discovered." If we feel ourselves becoming impatient or rebellious we should endeavor to repress such feelings and be deeply ashamed of any attempt at opposition to the just decrees of an all-wise God.

St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain. One of his followers said to him, "Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you." Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words: "If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me." Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said "I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me. I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right. I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishment of your holy will is my greatest consolation."

And in fact if, as St. Ephraim observes, a mule-driver knows how much his mule can carry and does not try to kill it by overloading it, and if the potter knows how long theclay should bake to be suitable for use and does not leave it longer in the kiln than is necessary, then it would show very little appreciation of God to venture to think that He who is wisdom itself and loves us with an infinite love would load our backs with too heavy a burden or leave us longer than is necessary in the fire of tribulation. We can be quite sure that the fire will not last longer or be hotter than is necessary to bake our clay to the right point"

Interesting - never seen this before.

Regarding the part above, I have a further question. How is a child supposed to think this way? A grown man, sure. But a 7-year old, I don't suppose someone at this age could come to such a response.
 

Lunostrelki

Woodpecker
My take, based on Eastern beliefs and culture: People have karmic debts they accrue from past lives. Sometimes their sins in one life are such that their punishment is to be stricken by a terrible illness or deformity in the next. EDIT: I apologize if there is a rule I was not aware of against discussing non-Christian theology in this part of the forum.
 

Lavabis Me

Sparrow
Can someone walk me through their thoughts on this? This is something I've always struggled with and I'm sure everyone has heard it asked in different variants.

I can understand God deciding to take someone early in life which I guess is ok/part of the plan..

I'm more concerned about the suffering aspect of this. Why does he allow this to happen? Maybe "allow" isn't the right word here but looking forward to hearing what you think.
I'm going to rephrase your question to be more precise: "Why is it that a child under the age of reason who is not capable of sinful acts or understanding meritorious suffering can be allowed to suffer by God?"

The question, phrased this way, becomes one of justice: "what did the child do to deserve this?" To resolve it, we have to go back to Genesis 3:16-22. There we learn, because of Original Sin, it is man's fate to suffer. So suffering, while it can be a punishment for a specific act, is also chiefly corporate; that is why we pray in the Salve Regina "to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping in this vale of tears." Understood through the lens of Original Sin, we see that suffering is part of our fallen world.

It was much easier for the ancients to understand this: when was the last time you stood looking at the sky and thought, "Dear Lord, please let it rain or the crops will fail and my children will starve."? Our modern world, with its comforts and disdain for any kind of suffering whatsoever, has obscured our predicament. The Good News is that God entered time in the person of Jesus Christ and redeemed mankind, opening a narrow gate through which some may pass to salvation. The coming of Christ did not lift the sentence of suffering in this life, but it did stand it on its head: those who follow His commandments can join their suffering to Christ’s suffering on the Cross and turn their pain into something very beautiful: you can merit for yourself and for others - people you haven't even met - Grace; imagine that, turning suffering, in imitation of Christ, into a gift. Truly, what the enemy meant for evil, God has turned into good.

So, understanding this, we see that even after baptism, though Original Sin is cleansed from the child, it is still under the sentence to suffer in this life like the rest of us. Think on this though: Christ - who, being God, was not under the sentence of the rest of mankind since He was not stained by Original Sin - took on human flesh specifically to suffer unjustly in a supreme act of love of by both the Father and the Son; so when you see a child under the age of reason suffering, you are really seeing a little Christ suffering. If the child is baptized, think of its merit in heaven; you and I will hardly reach that level. Think of the people around that suffering child who God is calling to Himself through that child, whose souls may have been lost. In this regard, stop thinking of suffering in this life as God's punishment: think of it as God's love and His zeal to save your soul.

I hope this resolves the question for you.

Pax Vobiscum
 

Cervantes

Woodpecker
Can someone walk me through their thoughts on this? This is something I've always struggled with and I'm sure everyone has heard it asked in different variants.

I can understand God deciding to take someone early in life which I guess is ok/part of the plan..

I'm more concerned about the suffering aspect of this. Why does he allow this to happen? Maybe "allow" isn't the right word here but looking forward to hearing what you think.
I think of it like this: God doesn't actively will there to be evil and suffering in the world - but he allows it.

In the Book of Job: Job was righteous and the Devil challenged God that Job was only righteous because God favored him. So God allowed the Devil to torment Job to prove that Job's goodness was irrespective of the comfort or happiness of one's life. Job did not turn away from God and in this way gave God greater glory.

God allows the Devil to do this with everyone. The Devil can bring suffering into anyone's life and God usually will not prevent it.

The Devil only cannot interfere with the things necessary for a person's salvation: The Devil cannot completely block out our awareness of the existence of God, or that God loves us, or to affect our moral sense (Even the most lost person is aware that they are doing evil. This is why pro abortion people react so emotionally to being challenged on abortion - any criticism from the outside awakens that moral sense on the inside. This is also the reason why those who have never read God's law in the Bible can still be held to it. ) And the Devil cannot overrule our will - we have to have free will to choose to follow God.

But our material conditions the Devil can do mostly whatever he wants - and he's not above brining suffering to children.

The temporal world is only a tiny sliver of God's world. We've been given free will so that we can choose God. Challenge in life gives us an opportunity - for our short temporal existence - to live heroically.

One of my favorite Pope Benedict quotes: "You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness."

So why doesn't the Devil kill or torment everyone? Those who are in a state of mortal sin the Devil does not want to disturb their lives. The Devil's perspective is eternal. He will gladly wait 60 years for a sinner to live in peace and then awaken for an eternity in his kingdom. And tormenting a saved person may only bring God greater glory when that person does not turn away from God. All the martyr Saints only brought God more glory. Suffering for one person is often designed to shake the faith of another person.

I suspect that the Devil may harm a children to turn adults against God. Seeing children suffer makes some people think that God must not be real.

The response to suffering must to turn our eyes to God and love him more, and in this way to shame the Devil.
 

DeFide

Robin
Interesting - never seen this before.

Regarding the part above, I have a further question. How is a child supposed to think this way? A grown man, sure. But a 7-year old, I don't suppose someone at this age could come to such a response.

Have you never heard of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three little shepherd children of Fatima?

I think they are the perfect little saints to resolve this question for you.
 
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