Evil and pain

I’ve shared how I’ve been wrestling with God for a while, because I’ve realized that deep within me (below my conscious self) I have blamed Him for all that is wrong in the world and specifically all that is wrong with me.

Of course that’s so common as to be laughable: swing a stick in a room and you’ll hit just about everyone who has felt that way at some point and to some degree. I just never thought I would be as large a part of this group as I am.

It goes against my tradition in some ways, but in other ways it’s a central part of my tradition: read the Psalms and Job and you see the same struggle – why, God, if You’re real and You’re good, is there evil?

And no one knows. Presumably God does, but instead of answering in philosophy, He answers in action. And to me of mental proclivity, that’s not all that satisfying.

I don’t want God right next to me, hurting with me and hurting even greater than I am; I want the hurting to stop. But it doesn’t.

I’ve recently found some philosophical possibilities concerning the nature of evil that seem to be helping a decent bit, but it isn’t an answer, because I don’t think we can grasp that answer, and I’m not certain that it would really help all that much even if the “formula” for “why” was given to us: it wouldn’t change the experiences.

I have been angry at God because, if He is all-knowing and all-powerful and created all things, then He is culpable for evil and suffering. But I’ve realized that’s only true if evil is actually a proper “thing.” Just as darkness may simply be nothing other than the absense of light (thus not a thing in and of itself), so perhaps evil is simply the absense of good.

If that is close to the truth, God didn’t “make” evil: if God is Goodness, then whatever is anti-God is anti-good. Nonetheless, God would still be culpable for allowing anti-good things to continue to exist.

I guess in one sense this is fortunate, because at the core of every human being resides anti-goodness in conjunction with goodness, so we might not be here if God didn’t tolerate anti-goodness. But then, of course, we have the legitimate complaint: well, why did You make me this way?!

To which we don’t know. Maybe something about love being a thing that requires choice, and the option to reject love has to be viable if true love is to have the possibility of forming. But then we can wonder why love has to be that way – God made love, right, so make it different!

Maybe, though, love, too, isn’t a “thing.” Maybe it’s just a natural part of the character of who God IS. If He is Trinity, existing in eternal self-sufficient love within the relationship of Himself, then love is just the thing that happens naturally. And maybe if God wants to reproduce that kind of love in life outside Himself, this is how it has to start out.

That’s not totally satisfying. It helps me some. If I didn’t really believe deep down that God’s plan is somehow going to work in the end, it wouldn’t help at all. Thankfully, I do believe that, though I’m not sure I can explain why – how I can be both angry at why things are the way they are but still trust that when it’s all said and done it’s going to work. But I do – it’s just the process in the meantime I hate.

And I think God hates it, too. That doesn’t make me feel better, but I think He’s right there with me saying in essence: “Yes. This is terrible. No, it is not OK. It will work in the end, though. All will be made right, and you’ll see. I know it’s hard. Trust me.”

And the Cross does help me here. It shows that evil is personal to God; it’s not some problem like inflation or a rainy day – it is the gaping wound in God’s side, the knife stuck in His back that is constantly twisting.

Because on the Cross He let evil bring its worst on Himself, and on the Cross He defeated it. Though the battle rages on, the war has been won. And the Cross has been passed to me as part of Christ’s Church, which is His Body.

And the message of the Cross as it applies to me is: with Christ in me, I stand in the gaps where evil still carries on its battles just as Christ stood in the gap to win the ultimate war. Not me by myself, but Christ in me and in the Church along with me; I’m not in this alone.

The embrace of the Cross is more than accepting salvation; it’s taking up Jesus’ way of life. It is expecting to suffer. It is expecting to confront evil. It is knowing that this is my vocation as a disciple: to be Christ in the world. And it is coming to terms with the fact that it’s quite probable that in my confrontations with evil, by all outward appearances it will look and feel like evil wins.

For three days it seemed the forces of darkness had fought with God and God lost. That the darkness actually was, in fact, stronger. Three days. An eternity.

But through the very process in which evil sought to conquer and destroy, evil was defeated. Certain victory was blindsided by crushing defeat.

And that is my path, as well. Not masochistic. Just not shocked when evil and pain seem to find me. And not overcome with despair, but actually being able to rejoice as the Apostles did because the arrival of evil is proof that I am succeeding in my vocation – evil is being drawn to me, and through Christ in me it is being destroyed though it may look like utter catastrophe.

I think that was Paul and the Apostles’ secret: they really did learn to see their life that way. That’s how they could sing in prison. How they could count their persecution as joy.

It’s so utterly alien, but it’s so true.

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2 thoughts on “Evil and pain

  1. Thank you for sharing the truth. Can you please tell me the source of the photo with “Where is God?”. Thank you!

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