In our new four-week message series that begins today called, Spin Doctoring, we’ll be learning how to turn life’s negatives into positives. Mere existence as a human being has a way of inflicting wounds on us through various forms of suffering. How we choose to react to that suffering and how well we heal from the wounds determines how disfiguring the resulting scars will be.
When evil befalls us, betrayal occurs, or loss happens, the most common and obvious question is “why me?” At those times, many question the goodness or even the existence of God. Indeed, the problem of evil, or what theology calls “theodicy,” is perhaps the most pressing and unavoidable issues challenging our faith. If God is all-good, all-loving, and all-just, why does he allow evil to exist in the world? This message series seeks not only to address the problem of evil but also hopes to offer some biblical advice on how to respond to it.
There are many forms of “evil” or suffering. The most basic distinction is between “moral evil” and “natural evil.” The former is the product of human sin. God is simply not the cause. On the other hand, natural or physical evil often is harder to understand because disease, illness, and natural disasters cause pain and suffering but seem not to involve human activity. There is no “non-divine” explanation for these events, so why would God “cause” them?
While asking God for explanations is an important step in struggling with loss arising from physical evil, other coping strategies ultimately can help you move forward. Here are a few possibilities:
1. Trust in the Goodness of God. “With infinite power . . . wisdom and goodness, God freely willed to create a world in a state of journeying towards its ultimate perfection” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) n. 310). Despite the imperfect state of the world where sickness and tragedies seem to happen without good reason, “God in his almighty provience can bring a good fro the consequences of an evil” (CCC n. 312). To the extent we can cling to this truth, loss will take on some meaning.
2. Look for Heroic Opportunities. As confusing as natural evil may be, tragedy nevertheless offers an opportunity for others to step into heroic roles. A debilitating disease for instance, presents the occasion for a spouse to care lovingly and courageously for his or her beloved. The pain still exists and does not subside, but the basic goodness of humankindness is given the opportunity to flourish in these circumstances.
3. Find Solidarity in Christ. Even in the absence of sufficient explanation, we can take solace in the fact that our God enters into our pain through the central act of Christ’s death on the cross. Even before the Crucifixion, the Bible recounts how Jesus wept bitterly at the death of Lazarus and even was outraged at the reality of death itself. In the deepest moments of our loss, we can turn to God who experienced it all himself and find solidarity in his consolation.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson