“Pain and suffering don’t disprove the existence of God. It only disproves the existence of a god who doesn’t allow pain and suffering.”– Andy Stanley
Many people struggling with faith have a difficult time embracing a higher power that would permit so much evil to exist in the world. In fact, if we’re honest, most of us wrestle with the “If God __, then why___” question just about every time we turn on our televisions. Part of the reason for that is a psychological projection on a massive scale. We’re always looking for someone to blame, and when a finger can’t be pointed at a person, a finger gets pointed at God (most often the one in the middle). This along with the seemingly natural penchant for humans to diffuse responsibility and it’s all God’s fault all the time… even from folks who don’t believe in God to begin with.
Well, I turned on my television the other day. What I saw filled me with sadness so deep and dark I had a real hard time finding my way back up to anything resembling light. The Associated Press released a photo of a father and his baby lying dead on a river bank. Unfortunately for the entire world, the related context of the picture led to some heated debate about immigration and parental responsibility. I don’t know this for certain, but I suspect the image sparked quite a few “If God__, then why__” conversations as well. Personally, I chose not to take part in the discussion at all. Alternatively, I decided to intentionally highlight things that made me feel wonderful, hoping very much they would have the same effect on others.
I started by posting a joke on my Facebook page. That got a few “lol’s”. I made my wife a cup of tea. I told a friend how much he meant to me. I watched a short documentary about a young man who makes and wears his own historical clothing. I turned on some happy music and sat on the front porch with a glass of cold water and my dog, consciously waving to folks who happened by. In the back of my mind that revolting snapshot of senseless destruction kept spinning, and all I wanted to do was keep projecting the opposite. Then it hit me…
Maybe that was the point.
For bad things to exist, good things must also exist. It’s the yin and the yang; the shady side and the bright side. They are co-dependent. Too much of one tips the other off balance, so the universe by its nature seeks to correct itself. The “If God__, then why__” question isn’t nearly as complicated if you look at it that way.
If God allows suffering, then why isn’t the existence of contentment enough to offset the guilt trip? I mean, that’s like being pissed off at your mom for giving birth to you because that curly red hair you hate runs in her side of the family. It’s like that lady who sued McDonald’s because her coffee was hot. Think about it… if God didn’t allow agony, then why would exhilaration even matter?
Now, I’m not trying to suggest that making a few people smile one random evening is some sort of antidote to the horror of dying children, or the insanity of plastering pictures of them all over the morning news. I’m just saying that maybe, instead of losing all hope on humanity and divinity alike, we take a look at something beautiful when confronted with something repulsive.
Without monsters there would be no need for heroes. Without apathy there would be no need for empathy. Without malevolence there would be no need for generosity. It’s worth considering that on occasion someone else’s suffering can pave the way for a great deal of comfort.
Sounds like a pretty good idea for a book.