St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why God allows suffering

When God created the world, it was a natural paradise. Everything he made was good and beautiful. There was no suffering or pain. There was no death. The creatures, plants, and trees were full of life; "it was good" (Gen 1:4). When God created man (male and female), He saw that "it was very good". God created man to be like Himself - good, beautiful, intelligent, etc. - in His own image. God Himself is free, so he created man to be free.

The free will that God has given man means that man is truly free. God gave him free will so that he would choose to love God and be in friendship with Him. This was His Plan for man...that he would be with God in this life and for all eternity, and He gave him much help to choose good. But, like any good parent or friend, God couldn't force man to love Him. God knew that man could reject Him, and thus do evil.

When man rejected God for the first time and committed Original Sin (Adam and Eve), suffering and death entered the world. Suffering is a natural result of sin, whether through individual sin or another's sin. It is in and of itself not good; it is a natural evil. God never wills suffering, death or evil: "God did not make death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living" (Wis 1:13).

Rather, God allows suffering; it's part of His permissive will. God allows suffering because He allows us to choose to reject Him. He has given us free will, and truly respects our freedom. He is no less God and doesn't lose any of omnipotence if we choose evil. He is, always has been, and always will be an all-powerful God. He has created us so that we will choose Him, but knows that we can abuse the freedom He has given us.

On a natural level, then, suffering is not good because it is not from God. God most likely feels the way the prophet Jeremiah did when He sees His people suffer: “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms… my people…" (Jer 14: 17-18). Because of His great love for us, however, God will bring a supernatural component to suffering that will bring good out of evil. He will win victory over suffering, death, and evil through his Son, Jesus Christ. As we will see in an upcoming post, the suffering of Christ and anyone who follows Him leads to glory...(to be continued)
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Here's a question that is still debated among theologians:
If man didn't commit Original Sin, would Christ still have become one of us?

5 Comments:

  • If man had not committed Original Sin would there have been any need for Christ to become one of us?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:07 PM  

  • We see in our Lord's Passion though that there is a deep connection between Love and suffering. Sometimes we suffer simply because we do love so much, such as our personal suffering when we loose a loved one, or when we witness a loved one suffering. It is as if, if we didn't love so deeply, we wouldn't suffer so deeply.

    By Blogger Magnificat wannabe, at 5:55 PM  

  • Even if man did not commit the original sin, we still need Jesus Christ. Man would not have known that there is a God who loves man. Jesus is an example of love and we would not have known what true love - in its most comprehensive meaning - is without Him. I will definitely remain faithful to Jesus Christ who lived a human as myself, and who I can turn to for hope and love, and most of all fully trust.

    By Anonymous Faithful Vigil Adorer, at 10:30 AM  

  • This is an excerpt from a video I watched called "God in the Dock" (I think that was the title) where Jesus was put on the stand in court and had to respond to the question why he allows suffering, and this is his response:

    I created a race of human beings. They think for themselves, choose for themselves, and in a very real sense the good and the bad that they do is their own because they freely create it. No one else is responsible for it...

    I enjoy living. I always have. I enjoy knowing. I enjoy loving so much so that I decided I wanted to share my joy with them. Now as you know there is only one way to get joy and it's by loving. And as you also know, love must be free or it is not love at all...

    I allow suffering. I do not cause it. I could have prevented it but in doing so I will have to withdraw freedom and I will not do that. You elimintae freedom and you elimintate joy, growth, love and all those wonderful surprises of which human beings are capable...

    Suffering is suffering. It is no fun. I know quite a bit of it. But it is also temporary and for those who know how to use it can deepen and strengthen. Suffering is like garbage. It doesn't smell good. It doesn't look good but it makes excellent fertilizers and it can sure help people to grow...

    I work within people helping them to love...

    Did it ever occur to you that suffering gives all those who do not want to believe in me and excellent excuse not to do so?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 AM  

  • Some insightful comments to the question, "if man hadn't committed Original Sin would Christ have become one of us?". I have found it a very interesting question, and think about it from time to time, especially when I read in Scripture about why Christ came to Earth.

    One argument says that Christ came solely to redeem us because we had sinned. Scripture has many references to the purpose of Christ's mission along the lines of Christ as Savior. John 3:17 is one: "For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved".

    The other argument is that Christ came as the bridge between Heaven and Earth. In other words, even if man hadn't sinned, he wouldn't have been able to enter eternal life. He would have had a natural paradise on earth that would have been permanent (death didn't exist until sin). How would he have gotten to eternal paradise in heaven? Again, Scripture gives many references to Christ as bringing Heaven to earth, and offering man the chance of having eternal life. One line is just one verse earlier in John Gospel: "For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).

    I tend to go with the latter argument to answer the question, but know that the two arguments are very similar and build on one another because they both refer to the one true Christ. Christ is both Redeemer and the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Obviously, is that man did sin, and we see God's Loving Plan in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. He sent his Son to save us and lead us to glory in his kingdom in Heaven. It is a good exercise though, to read through Scripture and Tradition to see exactly what the purpose and mission of the Incarnation is.

    By Blogger Fr Greg, at 11:00 AM  

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