Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Problem of Pain

I am going to talk about something that makes me by nature, uncomfortable. I have heard quite a few Christians lately, including myself come near to apologizing for pain. In doing so they come close to apologizing for God. Everyone seems to be stumped when it comes to why there are people who are dying in the world. Why there are children crying and innocent people suffering. It is as if they believe that God is causing it and we have never heard or dealt with the problem of pain. We have forgotten that at the root of it lies a choice in a Garden.

We visit other countries and return depressed because we think God is absent. Usually an evil government headed by evil men causes poverty and war. Ironically, in natural disasters somehow we can cope. Not only do we cope, we wrongfully assume that God purposefully does it to bring vengence. It is in the disasters caused by man where we coil and accuse. I hear about pampered, rich Christians going to other countries and return wondering why God allows suffering. It is not that I don't understand empathy, Love, Charity and Sympathy. It is that I don't understand the full-on animosity towards God that results as if there is some wisdom that has escaped God and has found refuge under our salon shampooed and conditioned hair, resting in our superior gray matter.

For some reason this makes me angry. I get angry when Christians become confused and ackward at the sight of pain. At the same time I marvel at Christians who can endure pain and bring hope. Sometimes we don't have the answer that brings any relief, it is true, but sometimes, we do. Or at least we should and pain is hardly ever eased with words. Another problem is that knowing the root or source of the pain or evil doesn't do much for the sufferer and this makes the Christian feel angry and turn their fist toward God. Forgetting that the very compassion that flows from them to know compassion for those that suffer at all, comes from the one to which they wave their fist. If it weren't for God and his Love, the caring individual wouldn't care at all. Again, this makes the suffering no less painful. It is the powerlessness of ourselves in it all that gets us.

I have wept over family members lowered into the ground. I have wept for the suffering of an immediate family member. I have watched and cried allowed to God for the deteriorating mind of my closest friend. I have observed answered prayers and I have sat in the cold silence of unanswered prayers. I myself have suffered. I don't boast of it, nor do I shrink from it. I am sure that I will suffer more. I hope God grants me the Grace to endure and grants others the Grace to Love me during.

The cold truth of the matter is that suffering is the effect of the fall of man. Something that we don't really like to hear. Who likes to hear the truth though? Who likes to hear that they need to loose weight or that they have an addiction? Evil and suffering is a product of the assertion of the will against God, and his warning. He told the truth and we didn't believe it. It was the price for the Will. God saw it better to bring Glory out of suffering then to not allow suffering at all. No suffering was wished or caused purposefully by God. How can it if God is truly Love as John so profoundly stated. God entered mankind and took the evil by the root and yanked it up. He did this by suffering Himself. Afterwards he left a great hope for the world by remaining in the world via his Body, the Church. So while we still suffer, we can hope and give hope when there could have been none. Hope is the flower that blooms in the ashes of the worst disaster. I marvel at how any Christian can accuse God of allowing suffering while sipping on their warm Carmel Macchiatos from Starbucks. If the world suffers needlessly, then we aren't doing our Job. Before anyone gets mad at me let it be said that I have waved my fist at God with the best of you and before we close our next fist at "God's injustice" then let us make sure that our indifference isn't part of the object that obstructs the light and brings the darkness of hopelessness.

I might die of Cancer someday. I probably will. It is in the genes. If Cancer doesn't get me then the Heart Attack will. Either way, I suffer. My loved ones suffer. In fact most reading this will die while suffering. (Apologies to those hoping for the light read of sunshine and smiles today.) Some might say that suffering itself is a gift. We can use this to turn to God and offer this to him in great faith. No Angel or Demon has such a gift. We can "have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."


operamama said...

thanx for writing this seth. i needed to hear this. i am wondering about pain pretty much all the time. i've never had to endure much, until this last year. i count myself lucky, but i must admit it was hard to not blame God. i've been thinking about pain being a result of free-will and that in and of itself took the pressure off God. God didn't cause my pain, free-will did.
thank you for thinking. that sounds wierd to say, but i wonder if we ever do anymore.
tonight i will go to bed and miss my brother a lot.

Seth Ward said...

Thanks for commenting on it. It was one of those that I didn't expect a bunch of dialogue but I just needed to say. It is always a struggle for me it is good to talk these things out. If I find myself preaching then it is mostly to myself first.

I do wonder if anyone disagrees with what I said. Some people might.