A buddy of mine who is apparently Atheist posted this picture in his stream on Google+:
It’s something a lot of Atheists use as their “reasoning” to insist that there is no God. It is something I’ve thought about for years. Many people don’t have an answer. Many have turned away from Christianity or other religions because they feel that any suffering by humans, or even animals, is a sign that God does not love us or that God does not exist. Now, I can’t tell you what to believe; that’s not my job. What I will do, however, is tell you what I believe. I’m not saying what you should believe; you can agree or disagree all you want. This is just my beliefs, and whether they are truth or not, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t matter. It helps me sleep at night, and helps give me reason to better myself and the world around me, often by helping others where I can.
The picture is pretty heart-wrenching, I know. Where was my God on this day? Right where he should have been – meeting that little child on the other side, welcoming him/her home. How arrogant are we as a species to keep assuming that what happens here on Earth is the end-all and be-all of existence, that pain and suffering are nothing but pure evil and unnecessary for our existence. How little we understand of the possibilities and potential of our race, or the role of God in our existence. God is not here to simply take away our suffering. His job is not to fight evil and rescue us from our own consequences. Those are our jobs. His job is to help us understand how and why we need to do those things.
I believe that our existence on this earth is more like children going to elementary school. It’s just one stage of many. We’re here to learn and grow and expand our understanding, and put ourselves to the test. Just as children cannot comprehend the depth or intricacies of how far human joys and suffering can extend that we as adults can understand, we cannot fathom how much more than what there is in our limited ability to comprehend or experience that there is in all of existence. We only experience a small fraction of what there is. Even our hearing and visual spectrum are limited; who is to say whether our ability to experience joy and happiness or pain and suffering are not equally limited?
Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why does God let people die before their time? I don’t believe he does. He may let us die before we have experienced all we want to, but I do believe he allows us to move on when we have experienced all we really need to. Why does God let murder and rape happen?
Three reasons, as I see it –
1) those that commit the crime are free to make the choice, but not free from the consequences to their souls, and nothing they do will free them from getting their judgement by God in the next life.
2) In the case of natural disasters, fires, etc. – I honestly believe that God has left Mother Nature to work of her own accord, to a large extent; I believe He still will not let us perish unless we have accomplished enough (though I admit I do believe in a limited kind of reincarnation, but that’s for a totally different blog post), but otherwise he lets Mother Nature react as She sees fit. So to say that God causes hurricanes or earthquakes or volcanic eruptions is, IMHO, incorrect. I think Mother Nature is indiscriminate of who She sends natural disasters to, and if anything, we as a species are having more effect on the when/where.
3) A- in the case of rape, the victim, whether they realize it or not, is actually strong enough to survive the ordeal, physically and emotionally; they can choose to build strength and help others who have been through similarly horrific ordeals. How they choose to view it and recover from it is their challenge, while those around them are equally tested in how they choose to react to the victim and the assailant. B- in the case of murder, I honestly do feel that, though there was much good they could have done here on earth, they’ve done all that was required and/or that He has need of them for works on the other side.
To me, this life is not the end, but merely the beginning, and though we must not seek death and must make the most of the life we have been given, death is merely a graduation to the next level of our eternal education. We are naturally saddened by our loss, of course; but I do believe we will see our loved ones again, and that it is merely a matter of time until we ourselves graduate from this life to the next. When we do is not for us to say; He brings us all home, when the time is right. When we see suffering and pain in the world, we assume that God is not there. Maybe he is, though; maybe we are not seeing the strength of the souls who suffer, and we impose our own ideas on what God should be doing. That’s not our job. Our job is to help those in need and in pain, as best we can, and trust that God is watching over their spirits, which will always take precedence over their bodies. The body is currently merely a shell; a housing for our spirits. We focus so much on the suffering of the body that we start to forget that it’s the spirit or soul that we need to think about, and that goes on far longer than our bodies do. We suffer as part of a huge, interwoven set of challenges and tests meant to help our spirits grow, not the other way around.
The physical and emotional pains we suffer in this world are horrible, yes. I am not trying to lessen the need to ease the suffering of others, or justify people hurting others in any way. But pain and suffering exist, and they exist for a reason. We will never fully escape them. Sometimes we make mistakes, and we cause pain on people; it’s part of being human, and learning better is equally part of being human. Bad things sometimes happen to good people because those good people are strong enough to overcome them, not because God does not love us or they were really bad people pretending to be good. We suffer because we must; we learn from our hardships and our pain. We would learn nothing at all without them. Never seek to suffer, and never seek to cause suffering; but when it comes, don’t ask “why me,” because the answer is “because your soul is strong enough to learn from it.”
A Klingon proverb: “If you cannot fail, you cannot succeed.” There is truth in that. Suffering is not always punishment; sometimes it is a challenge in and of itself. Sometimes the challenge is for us simply to endure and hold fast to the belief that we can get through it, and sometimes the challenge is also for those around us in how they will respond to our pains. Sometimes it comes because another failed their challenge and caused it; the victims were allowed to be the victims because they can withstand it, even if they don’t think they can. God knows better than us what our souls can endure, and what our bodies can take. We all need to learn both compassion and long-suffering; life on Earth is hard, and it’s always going to be.
All too often, we view our existence merely as what we do and accomplish within our lifetimes. We forget that God views our existence as it is; as more than just what we learn and experience here on earth. It’s what we were before, and what we will become after. Everything we learn here is for the next part of our cycle; this is merely a stepping stone. It’s a vital one, so we must make the best of it while we are here; but a stepping stone, nonetheless.
Like the old saying goes – life is not about running away from it’s storms, no matter how dark or horrid they may be; it’s about learning to love what we do have, to sing and dance, despite the rain.