One of the perennial questions for people of faith is that of evil and suffering. If God is all good and all powerful, why is there evil and suffering in the world? For many, it is the most challenging question to faith, the thing that most powerfully drives people away from God. When many see the massive destruction of a natural disaster, the horrors of an event like the Holocaust, or the tragic deaths of children, they’re left wondering what the point of it all is.
The fact of the matter is, despite the great wealth of wisdom we have in our Church, we have many more “okay” and “sufficient” answers than we do “excellent” ones. For centuries, we as a Church has grappled with the discomfort of incomplete responses. For much of my life, then, this has been a prominent point of reflection for me, a question that I have had to wrestle with constantly as I grow in faith. What’s the point of it all?
In 2011, shortly after joining the friars and starting my blog, I offered what I found to be the best approach to the question in a three-part blog post. It was a stab in the dark, an attempt to wrap my hand around a mystery that cannot be mastered, and obviously it was incomplete. Looking back, I see great wisdom in what I wrote, but also some problematic holes that need to be nuanced.
Today, I offer another reflection, this time in video form. Like the blog posts from more than four years ago, I am pleased with the words I have found and believe that there is wisdom worth sharing: God is not responsible for all of our suffering. While our first response is to always look to God as being responsible for everything that happens, it is much more appropriate that we look to ourselves as the culprits. In our narrow perspective, misdirected desires, and poor choices, there is enough fault in ourselves to free God of our finger pointing.
It is a reflection that has been very helpful in my own life.
And yet, just as in 2011, I fully admit that my reflection is not the end of the conversation: I present to you a video with problematic holes and incomplete thoughts. Just because we are responsible for much of our pain and suffering does not completely free God from all responsibility. Are there times when God does intentionally cause suffering, either to get our attention or for God’s own satisfaction? How do we reconcile the story of Job with a loving and all-powerful God? Why would God create a zero-sum game of a world, one in which its creatures were constantly in conflict with one another and suffering was inevitable?
It is a reflection that requires more thinking and more nuanced answers.
There’s so much more that I want to say, but I think that’s the beauty of mystery. We can never capture it all and there is always more to know. The question I seek to answer today is something that should challenge us as Christians for the rest of our lives. It is my hope that this video will not be seen as an a definitive answer to the question, but a stimulus for further reflection and discernment.