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Kami wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 17-year-old Catholic female and not a master of the faith. I've been learning about Arthur Schopenhauer and this statement stuck with me:

How can there be an all loving God if there is so much evil in the world?
If He loves us so much why does He let us suffer?

  • What is the argument against these questions?

I want to be 100% convinced that there is a God but for some reason I have my doubts. Part of me believes there is a God, but some things don't add up to me and I feel like I'm blindly following a religion that I don't fully understand.

My rational mind and my faith have been at war for months.

  • Do you have any advice on how to resolve this problem?

Maybe there's a way my mind and my faith can work hand in hand — that my faith could be understood by the other part of my mind. And I'm slightly apathetic. The Catholic faith talks about love all the time and caring about other people but it's been getting difficult for me.

  • How can I be the person God wants me to be if I don't even understand my faith and I'm struggling to love others?

Kami

  { Why does a loving God permit suffering and what should I do when my mind and faith disagree? }

Bob replied:

Kami,

Thanks for your question.

It is probably the greatest question that causes doubt in people's mind about God. On it's face, it seems like an apparent contradiction: Good God, Evil world. It troubles us when we see so much suffering and God seems to stand by indifferent to all of it. There are two parts to this equation that we have to understand to begin to even imagine how this seems to be possible. Bear with me. If this is a long winding road . . . I want you to go on a journey and . . . bring your imagination. Think about the questions along the way and use your imagination and reason for the answers. All I hope to do here is get you to ponder some mysteries in a new way.

First, love.

  • What do we know about love?
  • Can you make someone love you?
  • Can you love someone out of fear?
  • What is love and how does it work?

One thing we know about love is that it is freely given; it can't be demanded or bartered for. It is a gift and a willingness to put another above oneself. When you have a beloved you would do anything for him or her. Wouldn't you?

  • What if there was a being that existed that was purely loving — complete in every sense, so much so that you might even say it was love itself?
  • Also, if that is the only being in existence, it must be able to offer love and receive it to even be love, for love implies the other — so in some way it must be more than one something — one person?
  • But if it is only one being, can it be more than one person?

Somehow, it would have to be, in order to be in a loving relationship.

  • That seems like another contradiction, but what if it isn't?
  • What if that being was so complete that it's own idea of itself was completely equal to itself?

In other words, you know yourself, but what you know about yourself is incomplete. None of us gets our self completely. Imagine your mind could hold an image of yourself that was exact, in every way, like looking in a mirror (but not physical). And then, imagine that the mirror is also someone who is looking in a mirror, because that is what you are looking at.

  • Have you ever stood in front of a mirror with another mirror behind you?
  • What do you see?

A million reflections coming back at you as though there was a dance between the original (you), your image, and the spiraling image within the images.

What we Catholics believe about God comes from A Man who claimed to come from God. He was either:

  1. a liar
  2. a lunatic or
  3. for real.

He told us things about God that weren't like what everyone else said. God was different from our expectations. (He didn't want sacrifices of animals and other crazy stuff; He didn't want to treat us like slaves, and He wanted us to learn from Him, to be like Him; not lesser-thans to squabble out.) He said that God is love, that He loves us, and that He wants us to live with Him forever. He made a convincing testimony and people found that He was consistent.

He didn't act like a crazy person, though some of the things He said were really crazy, like unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you have no life within you. (John 6:51-58) He was hard to figure out.

A lot of his followers left Him when He said some of those things, but others stood by him. He told them that following Him would be costly, that they would suffer, and that He didn't promise any real happiness in this life . . . other than the joy they would get from doing His Father's Will — bringing more people to know Him. He told them they would die for it, but that death wouldn't hold them down. They bought the story and told others — because that guy that told them all these things showed them who God really is: Love.

There is no greater love than this, that you lay down your life for your friends. (John 15:13) He didn't fight back, though He could have. He didn't resent them, though He could have. He didn't regret it, though it cost Him everything and they followed. They followed Him to bloody Crosses and agony and were willing to give it all despite the cost. No earthly glory, no fortune, no earthly pleasure.

  • They dove, head first, into the heart of evil and suffering — for what?
  • Why did they do it?
  • Did they really believe the one they followed?
  • Who will you follow through this world?

You see, Jesus was A Real Person, A Historical Person, who suffered a very public death, followed by a publicly claimed Resurrection — which was never revealed as a hoax, though he had many enemies who would have liked to do so. The historical issue of Jesus Christ puts Him in a place like no other person of religious antiquity.

  • He is real
  • has a real history, and
  • has a real challenge for his followers.

So, this is the answer to the problem of evil: Jesus Christ.

So let me summarize the two points:

  1. God is love, and He made us free so we can have the capacity to love as well. Not puppets; no, we are just like Him, made in his image and likeness.

  2. God showed us the way through evil and suffering in Jesus. He is not indifferent to suffering but understands it as deeply as any human ever has. He also showed us the response to evil: To answer it with love. Jesus ended His life with the greatest single act of love any human being could ever give. He gave it all, suffering as painful a death as anyone ever has. This is God who did this.
  • Is He indifferent?
  • Does He have an answer?
  • What is waiting for us on the other side?
  • Is it worth risking it all?

Lastly, Jesus gave us clues all along the way about this problem. Read the Gospels.

Let them grow side by side and don't pull the weeds too soon lest you loose some of the wheat. Jesus didn't give us a full explanation for why God let all this happen, but he showed us God's absolute unrestricted love for us in what He did. That is the greatest clue — and road map.

If everyone on the planet copied Jesus there would be no wars, no hate, and no hurt left unconsoled.

Compassion would abound. That is why He taught us to pray,

"our Father, . . . thy kingdom come . . . " (Matthew 6:9-13)

The answer to evil is you and me living in the Grace and friendship of God. If you need help doing that, as we all do, that unending spiraling out of control reflection in the mirror is coming at you — Jesus called that the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

This is the mystery of God's love in another Person, but that word hardly does it justice because it is so beyond our understanding how God's Own Life and nature fully are. Three in one, yes, but those numbers are so inadequate to explain a mystery that transcends our human intellect.

If you go on this journey, you will explore mysteries that will be veiled in this life and take infinity to wonder at in the next.

See you on the way.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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