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Is experiencing God's love the only reason God gave mankind freedom? If freedom lead to sin, which leads to death and suffering and evil, often making victims of the innocent and the meek, is love the only reason for existence? Where is the compassionate God when streets reek the stench of carcus? Where is the compassionate God when in the midst of a drought-stricked land, a mother carries her limb and dying son in her arms, and looks to the heavens asking for rain. Moments later the son dies in those very scrawny and malnourished arms (as depicted in Life magazine). The suffering, the hurt, the pain, the wails, the hunger, the thirst.....where is the compassionate God?
Requested by Tony_ak and Answered by Stbishoy on 04-Aug-2007 02:51 (1897 reads)
This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. Simply put, it says: "How can a God of Love allow Evil to be in the world?" In answering this question, we must be very careful. It is easy for a person living in relative luxury in a country like Australia to come up with nice-sounding words to explain evil, but does that mean anything much to the millions of poor and starving? I believe there is an answer, and although it is not a complete one, I believe it is complete enough for us and for most people to be comforted by it.

This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. Simply put, it says: "How can a God of Love allow Evil to be in the world?" In answering this question, we must be very careful. It is easy for a person living in relative luxury in a country like Australia to come up with nice-sounding words to explain evil, but does that mean anything much to the millions of poor and starving? I believe there is an answer, and although it is not a complete one, I believe it is complete enough for us and for most people to be comforted by it.

Firstly, as harsh as this sounds, God is the boss. Isaiah 29:16 tells us: "Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? " And Isaiah 55:8,9: "For My thoughts [are] not your thoughts , Nor [are] your ways My ways," says the Lord. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." What this means is that if God is who we think He is, the infinite, timeless, all-powerful Creator of everything, then we can never validly criticise His wisdom. If you think about it, who decided what was good and what was evil in the first place? Who laid down the rules that suffering was bad, that pain was bad, that death was bad? Wasn't it God Himself? So how can we judge Him by rules He created for us? But that's not the end of the story...

Secondly, we must ask ourselves just how evil is the evil that happens to us? For a child living in dourght ravaged Somalia, a cup of clean water may be the greatest of luxuries! For a child of the same age living in New York, not getting the latest X Box game he wanted might be the greatest of evils! Evil and suffering are relative. What is suffering for one person may be great good for another. What it really boils down to is what we make of our lives. It is not so much what happens to us that matters, it is what we do with what we're given that really defines us and defines our lives. We have seen people in situations of great suffering, yet they would have it no other way. Consider the mother who labours in pain to give birth. How precious and beloved must that child be to her, if she pays for it with such utter agony? And that price she pays is a sign forever of the great love she bears for her child. Or what about the Christian martyr who goes to his death singing joyful hymns, expressing a joy that no amount of torture or pain can spoil? He has risen above the level ofthe merely material. He has entered into the realm of the spirit, through the door of suffering and pain.

Sometimes, a person can accept pain and suffering willingly, but sometimes the suffering is forced upon them against their will. This doesn't really matter in the end. Whether willingly or unwillingly, the important thing is how the person reacts; what do they make of the suffering that comes to them? Bad things happen every day. When you accidently bump your toes on something hard and it hurts for a minute or two, is that not suffering? Should God remove that suffering from the world? Probably not. Well where shall we ask God to draw the line? How shall we define the limit for what suffering should be allowed by God and what shouldn't? The fact is that a lot of suffering is actually good for us in the end - it helps us to grow, to value the important things in life and to learn patience, tolerance, forgiveness. Without suffering, there would be no nobility, no self-sacrifice, no way to express love so sincerely and so powerfully...

Thirdly, we must ask ourselves, what is the result of bad things happening? St Paul tells us: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose." God is able to turn around even the greatest evil and transform it in the long run into good. Think of the little child who suffer being scolded and punished so that they can learn to negotiate this dangerous world safely. When they run across a road without looking, or reach out to touch a hot stove, the result is suffering, whether from the punishment of the parents or from the action itself. But the long term result is added wisdom that saves that child from many other dangerous situations. Suffering is turned into good.

The devil cannot defeat Christ. Whatever evil the devil inflicts, God is able to turn it into good by the end. If we take the long term view, what comes of the evil that happens to us on the earth? We are purified and strengthened. St Peter tells us: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, [being] much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire , may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love." (1 Peter 1:6-8) and St James tells us: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2,3). For each and every person, their suffering has the potential to turn to great good. Consider how inspiring are those people who overcome their hardships to achieve great things. Consider the courage of that little girl, Sophie Delezio, who has been knocked over by cars twice now in her short life (born 2001!) and been through such long and arduous hospital treatment. Yes, it's hard to see that, but it also lifts up the soul to think of her courage and her firmness in tha face of such bad experiences! Her example is an inspiration to many. Such examples could not be if there was no suffering.

Fourthly, we must remember that God Himself came down to the Earth and became one of us, and shared the experience of suffering and evil, probably to a greater degree than most humans who have lived on the earth. This is the answer to those who would say, "it's not fair for God to just sit in Heaven and inflict all this pain and suffering upon us!" He didn;t just sit in heaven, He came down and shared our suffering with us. In a way, it was even worse for Him. For us, we are humans and sinners, and we can see deeo down in our hearts that suffering might be part of our nature. But for Jesus, He is God, perfect and sinless. For Him to subject Himself to pain and suffering, which are the results of the corruption that entered our nature through our sin, must have been horrendous! Imagine Him hanging on the Cross, knowing that He Himself created those very soldiers who nailed Him there! he experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, persecution, hatred, loneliness and bereavement. When we suffer, we need only to look to Him to see that we are not alone. he puts us through nothing that He Himself did not experience.

Fifthly, we must seriously consider the consequences of freedom of choice. Let us imagine for a moment a world where no suffering is possible. What would the world have been like if our choices did not have any real consequences? When someone gets angry at another person and tries to punch them in the nose, an invisible barrier stops their fist two centimetres away from the other person's face. Beautiful! But is it really? Are we still free? Or have we become semi-free? We can no longer do evil, but then this means that we can also no longer choose not to do evil. We have to do only good. How now can we express our completely free choice to love God and follow His commands? I have to follow them, whether I like it or not! Taking away consequences from our actions reduces us to being less than human. God did not create us so. If there is to be the possibility of us doing great good, then there must also exist the opposite possibility of being able to do great evil. The comfort is that in the long run, God makes everything turn out for the best.



PPFM

Fr Ant
Secondly, we must ask ourselves just how evil is the evil that happens to us? For a child living in dourght ravaged Somalia, a cup of clean water may be the greatest of luxuries! For a child of the same age living in New York, not getting the latest X Box game he wanted might be the greatest of evils! Evil and suffering are relative. What is suffering for one person may be great good for another. What it really boils down to is what we make of our lives. It is not so much what happens to us that matters, it is what we do with what we're given that really defines us and defines our lives. We have seen people in situations of great suffering, yet they would have it no other way. Consider the mother who labours in pain to give birth. How precious and beloved must that child be to her, if she pays for it with such utter agony? And that price she pays is a sign forever of the great love she bears for her child. Or what about the Christian martyr who goes to his death singing joyful hymns, expressing a joy that no amount of torture or pain can spoil? He has risen above the level ofthe merely material. He has entered into the realm of the spirit, through the door of suffering and pain.

Sometimes, a person can accept pain and suffering willingly, but sometimes the suffering is forced upon them against their will. This doesn't really matter in the end. Whether willingly or unwillingly, the important thing is how the person reacts; what do they make of the suffering that comes to them? Bad things happen every day. When you accidently bump your toes on something hard and it hurts for a minute or two, is that not suffering? Should God remove that suffering from the world? Probably not. Well where shall we ask God to draw the line? How shall we define the limit for what suffering should be allowed by God and what shouldn't? The fact is that a lot of suffering is actually good for us in the end - it helps us to grow, to value the important things in life and to learn patience, tolerance, forgiveness. Without suffering, there would be no nobility, no self-sacrifice, no way to express love so sincerely and so powerfully...

Thirdly, we must ask ourselves, what is the result of bad things happening? St Paul tells us: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose." God is able to turn around even the greatest evil and transform it in the long run into good. Think of the little child who suffer being scolded and punished so that they can learn to negotiate this dangerous world safely. When they run across a road without looking, or reach out to touch a hot stove, the result is suffering, whether from the punishment of the parents or from the action itself. But the long term result is added wisdom that saves that child from many other dangerous situations. Suffering is turned into good.

The devil cannot defeat Christ. Whatever evil the devil inflicts, God is able to turn it into good by the end. If we take the long term view, what comes of the evil that happens to us on the earth? We are purified and strengthened. St Peter tells us: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, [being] much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire , may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love." (1 Peter 1:6-8) and St James tells us: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2,3). For each and every person, their suffering has the potential to turn to great good. Consider how inspiring are those people who overcome their hardships to achieve great things. Consider the courage of that little girl, Sophie Delezio, who has been knocked over by cars twice now in her short life (born 2001!) and been through such long and arduous hospital treatment. Yes, it's hard to see that, but it also lifts up the soul to think of her courage and her firmness in tha face of such bad experiences! Her example is an inspiration to many. Such examples could not be if there was no suffering.

Fourthly, we must remember that God Himself came down to the Earth and became one of us, and shared the experience of suffering and evil, probably to a greater degree than most humans who have lived on the earth. This is the answer to those who would say, "it's not fair for God to just sit in Heaven and inflict all this pain and suffering upon us!" He didn;t just sit in heaven, He came down and shared our suffering with us. In a way, it was even worse for Him. For us, we are humans and sinners, and we can see deeo down in our hearts that suffering might be part of our nature. But for Jesus, He is God, perfect and sinless. For Him to subject Himself to pain and suffering, which are the results of the corruption that entered our nature through our sin, must have been horrendous! Imagine Him hanging on the Cross, knowing that He Himself created those very soldiers who nailed Him there! he experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, persecution, hatred, loneliness and bereavement. When we suffer, we need only to look to Him to see that we are not alone. he puts us through nothing that He Himself did not experience.

Fifthly, we must seriously consider the consequences of freedom of choice. Let us imagine for a moment a world where no suffering is possible. What would the world have been like if our choices did not have any real consequences? When someone gets angry at another person and tries to punch them in the nose, an invisible barrier stops their fist two centimetres away from the other person's face. Beautiful! But is it really? Are we still free? Or have we become semi-free? We can no longer do evil, but then this means that we can also no longer choose not to do evil. We have to do only good. How now can we express our completely free choice to love God and follow His commands? I have to follow them, whether I like it or not! Taking away consequences from our actions reduces us to being less than human. God did not create us so. If there is to be the possibility of us doing great good, then there must also exist the opposite possibility of being able to do great evil. The comfort is that in the long run, God makes everything turn out for the best.



PPFM