Tribune Print Share Text

Living Faith:

The cost of freedom

Created date

May 21st, 2013

A Living faith reader from Virginia wrote me this note: About 13 years ago, my nephew who has Down syndrome, died at the age of 3. I still cannot accept that this was God s plan. It changed how I look at God and my belief. Humankind has wrestled with reconciling God and evil for millennia. While there are countless variations of possible solutions, they fall into just a few major categories. The atheist solves the tension by removing God from the equation. The illusionist, on the other hand, claims that suffering is not real, regardless of how we might perceive it.

Why both?

Those who believe in the existence of both God and evil have the more difficult task. How can there be suffering in the world if God is good and almighty? A few would say that God is not good, but rather some cosmic sadist. Others argue that God is not powerful enough to prevent evil. But because God has not ended evil yet does not mean that he never will. This is the solution that many see in the Bible: God is greater than evil and will defeat it one day. Even so, why does God allow evil to exist at all? Ironically, some theologians appeal to the love of God. God is love, and because non-free beings are incapable of experiencing love, God had to give people freedom of choice. Freedom gives rise to non-loving acts, but having some evil with love brings more happiness than having no love at all. Our personal response to suffering comes into play here, giving occasion for us to learn and practice virtue. Can we inspire courage in those who are fearful and be generous to those in need? Will we be grateful for simple pleasures after experiencing pain and learn patience through trial? This might be small consolation during our darkest hour, but maybe the greatest good is possible only if suffering is permitted to draw it out. Instead of asking why God allows suffering, maybe we should ask what he wants us to get out of it. Next month, we ll explore more ways to bring about good amidst the suffering around us. I welcome your thoughts at 703 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228, or