One of our axioms for Living a Sacramental Life is “God cares about (all of) it more than we do.” But when we start to think about this in light of evil and suffering in our world, it tends to open up a can of worms.
Simply put: If God cares about (all of) it more than we do, why do we experience suffering and evil in the world?
It’s not a new question.
Many of the Old Testament writings deal with this issue (many of the Psalms and prophets, as well as Job and Ecclesiastes, to name a few). Jesus himself addresses tragedy and suffering numerous times in his teachings and encounters.
Below are some resources that have been particularly helpful for me in thinking through this issue and I encourage you to check them out, but I’ll offer a few thoughts by way of response:
1. God’s will isn’t the only operative will in the universe.
His creatures (you and I) are given agency and a modicum of freedom to choose good or evil. In his love he doesn’t compromise our ability to choose against what he wants. Additionally, Scripture speaks of “rogue agents,” spiritual beings/forces in rebellion against God, that have dominion and power in our current earthly age.
2. Evil and suffering have always been the experience of God’s people.
This isn’t a new problem, but an ancient one. I would also contend it is a central problem to how we conceive of and relate to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
3. There are no easy answers.
But what about my spouse’s inoperable cancer? My child’s abuse at the hands of a trusted family member? Mass shootings that take the lives of innocent bystanders? Natural disasters that come and wreck havoc with no warning?
No easy answers here, friends. I think this question has only become more difficult in our modern era where through technology and affluence we have eradicated so much uncertainty and danger from our lives (i.e. medicines, fortifications, early warning systems, surgeries, etc).
We don’t experience suffering and evil as everyday realities. They intrude into our safe, predictable lives unannounced. This leaves us vulnerable and aching for consolation and answers.
I encourage you to press into these questions if you have doubts that God cares about your suffering and evil in the world more than you do. The Psalms are replete with godly persons crying out for justice and mercy. Let their words become yours. And make sure you check out the resources below as you process and learn and grieve.
Resources for wrestling with evil and suffering:
- Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Diane Langberg
- The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart
- Is God to Blame? Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering, by Gregory A. Boyd
As always, Fr. Ben and I are available to listen, weep, and counsel whenever you need.
In Christ’s mercy,