Our Greatest Need

Chapter 1 | Summary

A False Door

The Bible and Terrorism

Why So Much Suffering?

Living in a World of Pain

There Is an Answer!

Yearning to Be Happy

Daybreak seems melancholic in Madrid. But it is not unusual. In reality, dawn seems to exhibit a grief-stricken countenance everywhere in the world. Perhaps because night disappears reluctantly at the dawn of the new day, or possibly because the sun, like a timid child, delays its rise capriciously. Who knows why sadness deforms the good things in life! However, this early morning the Spanish capital appears sadder than ever. It smells of blood and death for no apparent reason.

In the city of Alcorcon, in a house with blue walls and iron balconies, three men repeat isolated phrases. Heart-wrenching moans rise from the depth of their hearts and are similar to the wailings of death. An old, small lamp casts its weak light on the tiny room where they speak. Like evil figures, they are drenched in hatred and resentment. Their eyes are devoid of life and their bodies drag along the weight of death. However, they present themselves as satisfied. Things go as planned.

At five o’clock in the morning, residents of Madrid wake up to face their daily tasks. They embark toward their responsibilities like migratory birds seeking their destiny. Each carries its own sadness, and lives its own drama, cries out its pain, and relishes its joy. It is a cold morning, typical of March. The mysterious characters also stealthily abandon their house in a white van. Their stern faces ridden with guilt marked by deep wrinkles of concern, yet they are determined to carry out their commitment.

The sound of trains breaks the silence of dawn. Crowds pack the trains. People enter their routines with a lifeless gaze, enslaved by the hustle and bustle and immersed in the to-and-fro that is inexplicable at times, simply allowing themselves to go with the flow of life.

Upon approaching Alcalá de Henares station, the men abandon the van and blend in with the commuters. They move forward like hungry beasts; they carry heavy backpacks on their shoulders but advance at a deliberate pace. Then they strategically spread out in the trains. Their backpacks contain an explosive known as Goma-2 ECO.

At 7:36 a.m. the ambassadors of death furtively abandon their backpacks in the trains and position themselves at different sites. And the countdown begins. Two minutes later, from outside the station, one of the men with a mobile phone activates the timer of the explosives.


Tragedy goes beyond the limits of a gruesome plan to materialize itself into a bloody reality. Three bombs explode at Atocha Railway Station, one of the largest in Madrid. The explosion ends the lives of several passengers who did not even have time to become aware of the situation. Darkness takes control of their minds. For them, everything is already over. But there are those who live to tell about it. Everything is confusion, screams, flashes of light. Terrified, people attempt to run without making sense of what is happening; while looking for the exit, they trample over one another and panic inundates the station. Injured people are everywhere. Two minutes later, at El Pozo Station, two other bombs go off; at Santa Eugenia, one more; and at a fourth train near Tellez Street, another four.1

The Spanish city reels from the sudden strike. A dagger has cruelly impaled its heart. Blood is everywhere. But worse than blood is the desperation, suffering, and screams of helplessness. Police relentlessly field calls and instructs its security force. Hospitals operate beyond their capacities. Calls flood telephone lines throughout the country. In a short time, the aftermath of the tragedy will be known: 191 dead and more than 1,500 injured.2 Spain mourns her dead. Several parents hold the lifeless and bloodied bodies of their children, women cry over the premature loss of their husbands, and scores of children lose their parents.

No one understands what is occurring. They just suffer. Pain grimly smiles, brazen and insensitive. Meanwhile, a woman approximately 60 years old, who cleans homes for a living, upon seeing her leg destroyed, looks to the heavens and screams in desperation: “What have I done to deserve this?”

A False Door

Five years later, on January 5, 2009, in Blaubeuren, Germany, the magnate Adolf Merckle, 74, gets up at 7:00 a.m., as he usually does. But this time a sinister idea prevails. His financial situation is not as good as the previous evening, but he still owns a considerable fortune. At 8:00 he has breakfast and glances through the newspapers. Despite losing some of his corporations valued at US$1.5 billion, he still retains a financial empire worth more than $9.2 billion, which places him among the 100 wealthiest individuals on the planet, according to Forbes magazine.

If this opulent gentleman had gone about his daily routine that day, he would have left his home and headed to his impressive office in the city center to take care of business. But this is not a normal day. Hours later, Merckle writes a farewell letter to his family, walks 300 meters, lies down on the train tracks and waits for the train to pass. For him, it represents the end of his problems. His body is located that night.3

A year before, Merckle lost €1 billion on an investment of shares in Volkswagen Corporation.4 The illustrious businessman, who had a reputation as a tireless warrior throughout his life, could not withstand the suffering caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainty about the future, and the helplessness when coping with the chaotic situation of his corporations. So he decided to put an end to his existence, but not before telling a friend: “The world will not emerge from this crisis and we will all pay, because we are all guilty.”

The Bible and Terrorism

In the Holy Scriptures we can find guidelines that contribute to the building of a fairest society, when put in a proper context.

✔ “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21).

✔ “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Prov. 6:16-19).

✔ “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14).

✔ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matt. 5:38, 39).

✔ “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror” (Ps. 10:17, 18).

✔ “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The existing authorities have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect, if honor, then honor” (Rom. 13:1-7).

✔ “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13).

✔ “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”(Is. 2:4).


Appropriate answers to not get carried away by feelings

Why So Much Suffering?

Why did the injured woman at Atocha Railway Station and the German millionaire associate suffering with wrongdoing? Have you ever wondered why we suffer? Without an in-depth analysis, we would instinctively say that we suffer because something is wrong. And perhaps it is. How can something that makes us suffer be good? In fact, suffering is no more than tasting evil’s gall of bitterness. Pain would not even exist were it not on the palate of our souls. But it is; it is real. It arrives in our lives against our will. Our decisions often have no control over it. None of us yearn for pain and suffering, at least not those of us in full use of our mental faculties. However, for some reason not understood it breaks down the door to our hearts, appears without our permission, and takes over our days and nights, causing us anguish and driving us to emotional imbalance.

To make matters worse, human suffering is different from the pain of irrational beings, because animals, apparently unable to philosophize about the meaning of their sufferings, only feel physical pain. They simply suffer. But in our case it is different. Suffering appears in our lives draped as sadness, grief, anxiety, anguish, fear, and despair. It suffocates and irritates. We instinctively believe the only way out is to flee, escape, or disappear to some part of the world where it will not find us; abscond to the hidden ends of the earth. But by doing so, we discover that it is impossible to flee, for suffering is in our skin, in our bones, in the nature of our own being.

Under these circumstances many people see death as the only way out. If this were not so, why would someone such as Adolf Merckle end his life? Arriving at suicide is a radical measure. One no longer sees light at the end of the tunnel. Generally speaking, experts explain that individuals do not decide to end their lives overnight. Some psychologists suggest that it is a long, painful path between the desire to die and the act of suicide itself.5 It is terrible to imagine individuals planning their own deaths, thinking about the details of their last moments, writing messages to explain their decision to friends and family. Indeed, no message is capable of explaining suicide to family members of those who take their own lives.

Vincent Van Gogh wrote that “suicide makes family members and friends feel like murderers.” The phrase may seem harsh, but it is real. I have seen the pain on the face of people who have lost a loved one to the clutches of suicide. It is not merely the pain of death, it is a more profound pain combined with guilt. People invariably ask, “What could we have done to prevent this tragedy?” The answer is very simple: nothing. We hardly manage to survive in a world of pain and despair.

Living in a World of Pain

Why does suffering exist? Is it possible to lead a life free of pain, illness, violence, and tears? Whenever suffering knocks on the door of our hearts, we ask: “Why this?” “Why me?” We then look for answers. It is natural to want to know the root of pain. It is logical to attempt to delve into incomprehensible mysteries. Reason itself forces us not to stand idly by.

Of course, there are also those who are indifferent or, at least, those who prefer not to think, those who remain in doubt and do not question themselves. Unfortunately, these persons are swept away by the turbulent waters of the absence of meaning in their existence. They immerse themselves in the immediacy of their senses; they forget about the value of the spirit; they allow themselves to be driven by the inertia of contemporary trends and remain bound to chains of mediocrity. Ironically, this attitude of apparent comfort also produces dissatisfaction and boredom, because humans are not simple beings. People end up resorting to fleeting passions and pleasures as a life-saving anchor. They produces idols such as money, ostentation, magnificence, and appearance, ignoring their own conscience and burying themselves in the transience of consumerism, thereby entering an endless downward spiral.

What is this all about? It is what is known as inner emptiness. We look deep within our own being in search of answers. Yet no matter how much we search we do not find them. But if we forget about ourselves and raise our glance in search of someone to help, we would have the opportunity to write a new chapter of our lives. Unfortunately, the men and women of our times have greatly learned to rely too much on themselves to obtain answers. And because they do not find them, they opt to hide behind outward appearances and build images that disguise their pain, even if the cost of maintaining such a mask is life itself.

Five months after the suicide of the German multi-millionaire in Blaubeuren, the city of Paris awoke to tragic news: “On Wednesday, May 20, actress Lucy Gordon put an end to her days,”6 announced her agent without providing further details. The body of the famous actress and model had been found in her apartment in the tenth district of the French capital, two days before her 29th birthday. The beautiful young woman, before ending her life in the midst of her rising career full of applause and followers, confessed to a friend: “It is not worthwhile to go on living.”

Why would it not be worthwhile to carry on living? Our world is incoherent; modern life seems to have lost its meaning and values. The human heart is eccentric and fatuous. The power of culture teaches that life revolves around to the images we build, that without them we are worthless. Then, without realizing it, we begin to worship our own images, venerating them without caring about the values of the soul. Our minds focus on the whims of appearance, and luckily, or unluckily for some, the mind is a powerful instrument with which we can reach either captivity or liberation. Depending on whom we grant control of our minds, and how we utilize it, we can reach a dead-end or the wide-open expanse of personal fulfillment.


Suitable orientation to find strength in hard times

There Is an Answer!

No one is exempt from suffering in this life. We will all someday feel the earth tremble beneath our feet. Disease, sudden death, an accident, broken heart, or an economic loss threatens our lives, causing us to become depressed, take away the desire to live, and the strength to go on. We sometimes get to a point when we feel that everything we have built in life crumbles like a sandcastle. But does that mean life is over?

Who has the answer: science, philosophy, religion? Science cannot prove the origin of pain, or discover its remedy. Philosophy becomes lost in a maze of words and concepts that daze us but do not diminish our pain.

What about religion? If there is a God, why do evil and suffering exist? The history of humanity is a constant succession of tragedies covered in blood, tears, pain, fear, abandonment, despair, and death. The existential question of humanity before such a prospect has always been: “Why?” The skeptical response by Epicurus is: either God wants to eliminate evil, but He cannot, so He is incapable and is not God; or He can but does not want to, in which case He is evil.7

To what extent can Epicurus’ response be true? Must religious people pose this question to themselves? The catechism of the Catholic Church, in its epigraph 272, states: “Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering.” It later adds: “God can sometimes seem to be incapable of stopping evil.”8

What explanation could we provide to this statement? Where is God when people suffer? An old statement conveyed from generation to generation says, “Man is born, suffers, and dies.” Many believe that this phrase eloquently expresses human reality, because it highlights both of humanity’s most absolute certainties: suffering and death.

Is this statement true? Is pain part of human destiny? If so, why do we flee from suffering? We do not run away from hunger, thirst, or sleep. We accept them because they are part of our nature. So why not also accept pain?

The first thing we need to understand is this apparent incoherence. As long as we continue to be imperfect beings and live in a world subject to brevity and death, suffering is inevitable; no magic formula allows us to escape from it. All that remains is for us to understand; and this understanding will allow us to accept suffering, not as a curse or damnation, but rather as a process of growth. This means learning to suffer without being destroyed by suffering.

Sooner or later, pain touches us all. However, managing suffering not only consists of resisting pain by accepting it as something inevitable; more precisely, it is necessary to know the reason of its existence. The worst thing about suffering is not the pain itself, but suffering without knowing why and for what. Suffering is the carrier of a message that one must understand, and only through comprehension of this message can a solution be found.

Yearning to Be Happy

Why do you think humanity seeks happiness? What is its fascination for wellbeing and avoiding suffering? The need to be happy is natural; it resides deep in the core of our being, at the root of our mental structure. Pain is an intruder in human nature. Originally, humanity was oblivious to suffering.

The theory of evolution affirms species change as a result of a new necessity, that the struggle for survival eliminates unfavorable variations and only the fittest species survive. In other words, suffering destroys the weakest species. Notwithstanding, the reality of human nature clamors that everyone was born to be happy, fulfilled, and victorious; but something strange occurred along the way, producing an experience unfamiliar to humanity. That experience is pain.

Understanding the meaning of human pain and suffering is one of the most complex challenges human beings face. Even children ask, “If God is loving and almighty, why does He allow pain in the world? Why does He not do away with suffering, making His children happy?” And not without reason, Andre Frossard said that the origin of pain and evil “is the rock upon which all wisdom and religions stumble.”

Humanity—regardless of religion or philosophy of life—upon feeling heartrending pain, asks: Why? Why? In bitterness, we find ourselves alone and pose the horrific question Christ asked on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Next to these another question exists: Why do so many good people live in poverty and tragedy, while too many of the wicked, on the contrary, enjoy fortune and prosperity? These questions may appear rationally valid; yet they imply a notion that God is too small and too human. It gives the impression that we could all organize the universe better than God himself because, if we were in charge, war, crime, hunger, poverty, and disease would not exist.

Is it true that we could manage the universe better? Can we resolve the problems we have created? Can we look to the future with optimism? I do not think so. The future appears somber and gloomy. The financial crisis is not an imaginary ghost invented by a small group of experts. And the fact that someone does not believe in devastating winds of violence drawing near does not lessen the danger. Concern, uncertainty, and dismay are already in place in the financial and economic world. The close relationship in the globalized markets in the world causes an out of control crisis anywhere on the planet to create immediate repercussions on the economy of any country and, similarly, has an impact on each individual.9

The economy-driven suffering of modern-day citizens is real. It impacts the rich—such as Adolf Merckle, who opts for death—and it strikes the poor who have nowhere to live. Bankers and farmers are all affected. No one escapes the pain that entails instability.

Is life simply that? Dreaming, planning, and seeing your dreams and plans collect dust because of adversities? Looking to the future and not having any certainty; or if we have it, being afraid to lose it from one moment to the next? Why is it that no matter how much we seek to understand the source of pain, we do not succeed? Where do we search for answers?

Continue reading.


1. J. M. Lázaro, “Los islamistas planeaban atentar en Atocha, la sede del PP y el Bernabéu,” El País (Spain), November 3, 2004, https://bit.ly/2PgTp3k. Accessed July 28, 2015.

2. S. Aparicio, “El mayor atentado de la historia de España,” El Mundo (Spain), https://bit.ly/1wMvLje. Accessed July 28, 2015.

3. H. Cilio, Isto é dinheiro, January 14, 2009.

4. Carter Dougherty “Facing Losses, Billionaire Takes His Own Life,” The New York Times (USA), January 6, 2009, https://nyti.ms/2XdLg2o Accessed July 28, 2015.

5. https://bit.ly/2KLbQ1x. Accessed July 28, 2015.

6. “Lucy Gordon, British Actress, Dies at 28,” The New York Times, May 21, 2009. Accessed July 28, 2015.

7. Y. Martínez, Tendencias 21, Universidad Comillas de Madrid, June 29, 2012.

8. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section Two, Chapter One, Article 1, Paragraph 3, N° 272, https://bit.ly/2Dl3fwC. Accessed August 13, 2015.

9. R. Sagastizabal, Crisis financiera global: ¿Cuál nuevo será el nuevo multilateralismo?, May 2009, https://bit.ly/2VQLzjp. Accessed August 13, 2015.