There is suffering in the world, and people often want to know the reason for it. This is the area of theology called theodicy, the study of evil. In Why O Lord? The inner meaning of suffering by Carlo Carretto (Orbis 1986), readers approach suffering in a spiritual sense and the author challenges them to appreciate the spiritual growth produced by suffering.
The book opens with Carretto's speech to a group of handicapped individuals. In his speech, he recognizes his own brokenness and draws this reader (me) into an appreciation of what it means to be human. We are all connected. Someone else's suffering can be my suffering, and we can walk down the path together.
Carretto organizes the book into twelve short, readable chapters. The text is approachable and does not require any technical theological language. He often quotes scripture, seems to use it well, and does not misuse the Bible. The first chapter sets up the way he approaches suffering. Then, in chapters two through eight, he develops a theology of suffering, relating God to each moment of each day. In chapter nine, he shifts away from God engaging with humanity to martyrdom and the human element of reciprocally engaging with God.
Chapter ten is somewhat problematic because he proffers God as the initiator of suffering, but the following chapters are more pastoral and somewhat less deterministic about the cause of suffering. The final chapter is a guide for a short, three-day prayer retreat. There is also an appendix calling for people to remain in community rather than seeking solitude in their faith journey.
It might seem strange to review a book from 1986, but so much new material is published each year that old gems get swept under the rug. This review is an attempt to draw our attention back to something that is worth reading. It might have a dingy cover and only be available in the used-book section, but we should not be discouraged from seeking out the spiritual growth this book can give. Why O Lord? is a fairly quick read, but well worth the time spent.