Reconciling Suffering and Faith

One of the most common questions I am asked is: “How do I reconcile the belief in God with all the tragedy that there is in the world?” I’ve often asked that question of myself. There’s an even more simple incarnation of that question: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” That is the hardest question that I’ve wrestled with throughout my journey. I have seen too many wonderful, loving, truly and fully good people have terrible, atrocious things happen in their lives. How can I believe in a higher power, a being who is supposedly perfect and wants good things for us, when to believe in such a being would also mean that I believe they have the power to end suffering and do not?I once read in a philosophy class about a particular theory of the problem of tragedy in the world. I wish I could remember the philosopher’s name, but I’ve spent all night researching and come up blank. Essentially, the writer of this philosophical treatise viewed the suffering in this world as incidents of horror. When a terrible thing happened to a good person, he saw that as a horror. He viewed it as the nature of the universe that horrors struck randomly, out of nowhere, with no rhyme or reason as to who they chose. He also believed that when a horror occurred in a person’s life, God was sad with that person; God, whatever God there is, grieved with them. But the fabric of life could not be altered in order to prevent horrors–they were here, the dark in contrast to the light, to stay.This all sounds very abstract and textbook-like. It may make sense in a classroom with a professor scrawling on a whiteboard, but what do you say when a horror’s hit someone’s life? “Don’t worry, it’s just the way the world works,” somehow doesn’t quite cut it. When belief in God is compromised due to God’s seeming impotence, or worse, lack of caring, the textbook fails us.I’m about to tell you a very honest truth: I do not know how to reconcile my belief in God with the suffering I have endured, or with the suffering my friends have seen. I do not know how to explain to you why I still believe in God despite the horrors that strike all around the world. I think anyone who tells you they’ve got a satisfactory answer to this eternal quandary is either lying to you or just not being honest with themselves.

My only answer to this question, whether it’s been others asking it of me or me asking it of God, is that I find my comfort in God. During the horrors that have ambushed me, throughout the tragedies I have borne witness to, the one thing I have turned to consistently has been my faith in a higher order to the universe. What comforts me is that I feel God in tragedy. I like to believe that God, whatever God looks like, is sitting with me, right in the middle of the shock and trauma. I like to believe that we grieve over the horror together. I don’t know why it can’t be prevented; I don’t know why suffering happens, over and over, to everyone we know. I only know that for me, in my life, I’ve chosen to believe in God despite and because of the suffering I’ve been through. I would never judge anyone for their inability to continue in a belief due to our inability to answer this question.

I wonder about you, dear readers. Have you encountered this question in your lives? How have you gone about answering it for yourself?

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