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Many explanations have been given to answer the question, why does a living God allow suffering and the related questions "Why do innocent people suffer" and Why do evil people prosper" . They include:
Note: Most of these explanations are not very comforting. e.g. the fact that your deceased love one is in a better place, does not remove the grief and suffering of loved ones.
These explanations assume an all-powerful God who is able to control everything. In the book of Job, God allows Job a "blameless and upright" man to suffer. Another explanation is that God has allowed Himself to be limited for example by giving Man moral freedom and allowing Satan's temporary influence.
Theodicy is a branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to reconcile the existence of evil or suffering in the world with the assumption of a benevolent God, coined in 1710 by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to mean 'the justification of God' in a work entitled Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ("Theodicic Essays on the Benevolence of God, the Free will of man, and the Origin of Evil"). The purpose of the essay was to show that the evil in the world does not conflict with the goodness of God, and that notwithstanding its many evils, the world is the best of all possible worlds.
Dr. Jay Lynch, an oncology professor, Classifies Suffering as:
1. Suffering we all encounter because of our own foolishness or our own evil choices.
2. General frustration: Computer crashes, red lights, Untimely breakdowns.
3. Injustice - Suffering which is caused by someone else's evil choices or which may result from what is referred to as "structural evil."
4. No obvious perpetrator:
I have developed a personal philosophy that helps me cope. "Everyone has problems; you shouldn't measure your luck/blessings by how many problems you have but how you can recover from them."
Strength thru Suffering:
Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
Benjamin Franklin said: "Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn."
Lynch says: "I have an attitude where I expect good things from God rather than accept good things from God."
There is an old Chinese tale of a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?" Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman set off at once in search of that magical mustard seed. She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me." They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that had befallen them. The woman said to herself, "Who is better to help these poor unfortunate people than I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in her search for a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in palaces, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. Ultimately, she became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had in fact driven the sorrow out of her life.
C S Lewis makes the distinction between pleasure / happiness and Joy.
Early in his book, Surprised By Joy, Lewis describes experiences, one was a memory of a memory which brought him what he called "Joy".
Dr. Lynch says:
Lynch concludes: " God is all powerful, all knowing and loving and just, and he will make it right in His time.
In "When Bad Things Happen To Good People," Kushner (2) gives the example of the disease congenital dysautonomia.
In this disorder children do not feel any pain and their lives are horrible, frequently using self-mutilating behavior as a means of coercing their parents to do what they want.
Purposes of suffering (Lynch):
In "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", Harold Kushner says: "One of the things that constantly reassures me that God is realÉis the fact that people who pray for strength, hope and courage so often fine resources of strength, hope and courage that they did not have before they prayed."
Another important response to suffering that our faith gives us is the ability to forgive. Many who have suffered terrible loss have found tremendous healing in the ability to forgive the one(s) who brought on their suffering.
Other Religions and insightIn Robert F. Kennedy's speech at Indianapolis the day of Martin Luther King Jrs. death he quoted his "favorite poet" the Greek playwright Aeschylus (525-555 BC):
"Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
In his teachings of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha said that life is suffering. Of course, the Buddha didn't speak English; what he really said was that life is dukkha. Dukkha is not just about painful things. Anything that is temporary, limited or imperfect is dukkha. The most pleasant experience you ever enjoyed was dukkha, because it ended.
Four Noble Truths: - The truth of suffering (dukkha) - The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya) - The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha) - The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)See: The Buddhist path begins with the recognition of suffering
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