Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Why do we suffer if God is there?

Does Jesus know pain and suffering?

Joe writes:    I have been away from contributing to the blog for some time due to certain things that have been happening in my life. I have been going through hardships at home and at work and have had to seek the help of a therapist. I have high blood pressure at 38 years of age am currently on medication and on top of this I was prescribed depression medication for six months. So between these problems and others, I felt my world crashing around me and at some point starting to ask myself whether God was there and if so why was He letting me suffer all these hardships.

I am ok now and looking back I decided to share some of what came to me in the course of these things. Why is there suffering in the world and why doesn’t God who is all loving do something about this? Last Sunday we offered a lift to a young lady who was standing by the roadside, in the rain, on a cold morning and clutching an infant in her arms. While in the warmth of our car she said and I quote;

I don’t know anyone there [where she was going], I have three children and I think I will be moving in the streets begging. We were evicted yesterday, our blankets were burned and we have no food. I don’t know what to do and I am not sure how I will feed my children.

What comes to mind after hearing such words is, “why is she suffering like that and why are the kids being made to endure these hardships?” Two weeks ago, a colleague at work was in my office and he said to me that he has prostate cancer and that he was in the process of choosing his treatment. We all know of the tornado in Kestel (Free State) that has caused major suffering, and people are miserable there. The list is endless. Why does this happen and where is God in all of this?

In my own limited wisdom I look at my case and realise that I am blessed, because my own suffering left me intact with all my possessions unharmed. Thinking about this I was led to recall a quote that I heard some time back that says;

Whenever you feel so tired, so bothered, so worried, yet you do not know the reasons at all, just look up. And count not your pains but rather your blessings. (- St Michael the Archangel -)

While this quote helps me to go through hardships with joy and hope, it doesn’t explain why suffering is even there. I recall the passion of Jesus Christ, the agony in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion and the cry of pain and anguish “My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" Why did Almighty God allow such suffering to one who is co-substantial with Him? In fact what we go through, Jesus Christ experienced in His human life on earth those many years ago. He was born in a stable in the cold of winter, was wrapped in swaddling cloth and laid in a manger, lived in the obscurity of Nazareth as a carpenter under a totalitarian Roman government and ended up fixed to a tree.

Jesus said, “take up your cross daily and follow me”, if He is the rule not the exception, then suffering is our way of life, a life that leads us to trace His footsteps. In the beginning, Almighty God created a paradise on earth and placed the first man and woman in it. In the fall they rejected that lifestyle for a world that they had control over, a world where they/ we could betray His trust and love, a life riddled with sin and leading to death. Adam and Eve in their minds turned Almighty God into the deceiver and accepted the serpent as their trustworthy father hence Jesus would say “You are like your father the devil who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Logic dictates that since we chose a world where we turned our backs on God in favour of the charms of worldly desires of which it then follows that He cannot serve us without our participation. We chose to listen to the wiles of Lucifer and called God a liar (the great betrayal - who abandoned who?). In the search for Adam and his seed that began in the garden of Eden, the second man Jesus was compelled to accept the sacrifice of His own self in the second garden of Gethsemane. It is here He laid down His majesty and gave Himself up to the soldiers to be arrested so in embracing His death He would ransom us from the ancient serpent once and for all. One cannot "ransom" what he has but rather what has been kidnapped and held captive by a thief. For in the place where sin started became a place where it was defeated.

In this world, children of the world who do not hold to the truth of the passion of Christ say to themselves “… let us eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor 15:32). On the other hand, those who know that they are held prisoner and longing for home suffer along with their captain [kinsman redeemer]. For as in the days of old Israel a big brother was always sent by the family to redeem his siblings from captivity, so Jesus Christ, true God and true man became as our big brother coming to the thief's stronghold to redeem the children of His Father. The power that holds us in captivity is the same power that causes strife and terror. It is a power that seeks to dominate through coercion, to drive us to despair and to insult Almighty God through inciting us to blame Him for what he doesn’t cause “for what part of light has darkness in it?”

The whole earth groans with pain, hunger, natural disasters, wars and such like, for that is the world we chose - under the tyrannical and sinister inspiration and control of the fallen angels. The earth was cursed along with man during the fall; and as man must enter life through baptism, planet earth prepared to receive the redeemer through the baptism of the great deluge of Noah; for man’s flesh came from the dust of the earth. There will be a healing of the whole planet; a great renewal after the old has passed away (Arch F.J Sheen). We chose this suffering when we rejected God and the paradise He had given to us and funny enough with contraception, homosexuality, abortion and other things if we were to be given the opportunity to choose again in this day and age, we will still choose this suffering world because in it we have the power to influence and control our individual destinies (Dinesh D’Souza). Here Hitler, Stalin, Mao etc could kill millions and just as Cain murdered his brother and he actually died so also millions actually died. Freewill that has no tangible results is not freewill at all, if I choose to kill and God stops the person from dying or if a woman chooses to murder her unborn and the baby is born miraculously somewhere else, then choice becomes an illusion.

I listened to a debate between Bart D. Ehrman (Agnostic Bible scholar) and Dinesh D’Souza (Catholic apologetic) on the problem of suffering and came up with some interesting points. Dinesh D’Souza said that in trying to comment on the problem of suffering, we run into a scenario of the ant or dog that is given an algebra problem; they use up all their resources but still can’t solve the problem, not because there is no solution but because they are not endowed with enough intellectual capacity to comprehend the problem. This in a way is paraphrasing God’s response to Job. We might be like a little child watching its mother doing embroidery but can only view the reverse of the cloth. The child would think that the mother’s artistry is horrible if the mother doesn’t show the child the actual side where the genius of her work resides (St Pio of Pietrelcina).

In this world, all is reversed and so all suffering regardless of whence it comes leads to glory (St Pio of Pietrelcina). True faith consists in holding fast to Jesus Christ's doctrine amid the terrible hardships we may face, that is why the greatest love consists in giving one's life for another or for the defense of the truth. In this world, we are to blame if we look at our suffering neighbour and do not lend a hand (pride and selfishness); we are the problem every time we pass a beggar with hands extended and refuse to even greet them (vainglory), because in helping those people resides the glory we are to possess in a renewed world. Suffering accepted with humility, patience and love draws us closer to God. In the final analysis, we will see that even natural disasters are a result of freewill. Remember God Himself had to come and "ransom" us from the captivity in sin and violence. Remember Jesus Christ had to become a bridge, a doorway that leads from this world to the next. To leave the natural inclinations of this world is like going against a raging torrent, it takes guts and effort because the might of the raging river opposes our every effort.

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