Suffering And Evil – Or The Devil Made Me Do It (2)

Velska - October 31, 2008

As long as people have believed in a benevolent God (in other words, from the days of Adam), they have also struggled to explain why there has to be so much suffering in the world. Some have suggested that all suffering is the result of sin. Others dismiss the whole concept of sin and say that everything is just obeying natural laws.

I’d say that both explanations have some truth in it. First, if we look around us it is easy to see how much humans cause each other to suffer. And almost always, the suffering could be avoided if people would look at the Ten Commandments as a serious attempt to moderate human relations – and obeyed them. And since sin is to break the commandments of God, yes, much suffering is caused by sin.

Then there is the kind of suffering that is caused by natural phenomena like earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, etc. Can we consider them reminders from God of how fragile human life is, in order to make us think about the purpose of our life? Interestingly, in the Doctrine & Covenants we have a warning:

And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people. For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes… (D&C 88:88-90)

To me that does not mean that people who fall victim to these are necessarily any less righteous than people whose homes are not destroyed in an earthquake. It means that we all have to take a good look at what we are doing. It means that we, as we partake the sacred emblems of the Atonement, make an honest assessment to ourselves as to where we stand.

Then there’s the school that says that the Devil is responsible for all suffering. I agree that he wants us to be miserable, but I think he trusts us to make ourselves miserable by worshiping idols of bricks and mortar, silicon and steel and doing all kinds of unseemly things because of our worship. He will insinuate his ideas to us, but we are responsible for acting them out.

Finally, I think we can all benefit from an understanding that God can turn everything to our good if we look to him for our support. To Jacob, Lehi said God would consecrate his affliction for his gain (2 Ne 2:20). The Lord told Israel through Isaiah that he had refined and chosen him in the furnace of affliction (Isa 48:10). How well I know it can feel so unempathetic to have someone tell you that it’s all for your own good when you really are suffering. I’ve been there, and it can be really, really hard. Having lived through, I can say that I have at least some idea of what “refiner’s fire” means.

Our duty is to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. If we can do anything to alleviate suffering, we must do it. We can’t do it all, but we can do something (remember, dare to dream small). And when we do, our abilities strengthen, sort of like muscles in a workout program. I struggle with my inability to make much of a difference, but I do what I can.

For now, this is my last guest post here. I have started my own blog, and I seeded it with a couple of posts from here (with permission, of course). In a couple of days I’ll have some fresh material there. Drop a line.

11 Comments »

  1. Then there’s the school that says that the Devil is responsible for all suffering.

    I’ve had that argument before, glad I’m not the only one…
    Good post, I thought it had a positive direction and I think that’s a good thing. Good luck in your endeavors!

    Comment by Mo Mommy — October 31, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  2. Your last part (about God using the suffering for good) reminds me of this scripture, where Christ told the blind man’s parents that he was born blind so Christ could heal him.

    I think a lot of us could relate to that. Why do we suffer the trials we suffer? Why this particular one or Why that one? If we see it as the opportunity to allow Christ to heal us, the suffering doesn’t seem so bad since the payoff is so awesome.

    Comment by cheryl — October 31, 2008 @ 10:24 am

  3. I found this blog googling about the earthquakes we had today in Texas. I’m speechless. I’ve always had this strong feeling for months that something was coming. I feel like it is coming soon.

    Very interesting

    Comment by matt — October 31, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  4. Thanks Velaska for your time here. I have enjoyed your thought provoking posts.

    While we were in the PR China we had the rare opportunity to visit our daughter’s orphanage. We took with us a suitcase stuffed full of donated pajamas for older toddlers and kids. We had brought it all that way to donate to the orphanage. For children in orphanages pajamas are a luxury. The workers there are hard pressed to provide clothes for the day and so nighttime is usually an impossibility. We hope that last winter when the unsually large snow fall hampered the public utilities that the kids were parhaps a little bit warmer.

    I thought that I was prepared for the conditions that we might find there. The reality was that the conditions were far worse than I had imagined. We found older babies and toddlers tied to potty chairs. A swarm of flies and scabies mites crawled on their little blank faces. A gang of older feral kids ran around vying for attention and basic needs. Because of boredom they hit each other for entertainment. From Hong Mei we have gathered that death is a common occurrence. That day was no different as one of the babies struggled for life. I do not blame the caregivers who work in the orphanage. They fight a losing battle every day providing for special needs children with few resources and not near enough workers. These people are heroes.

    While we were there the thought jumped into my brain, “Where is God in this place? Surely IF there is a God He would not allow his little ones to suffer like this.” Never before had I ever entertained the thought of “if” in my relationship with God. I do not have the answers to this question.

    I have come to believe that for someone(s) this is an earthly test. They have the opportunity to change the fate of those little ones and they choose to ignore the suffering. This is evil. Apathy is also evil. I am bothered that I am apathetic to what I have witnessed. My child is now well fed, safe, warm and hopefully recovering from her experiences. China is far away and there are no guarantees that money I could send would actually help those children. I have been told that Hong Mei’s orphanage does not encourage help from the outside world. So instead I donate to organizations that I trust will help the orphans in China. We also pray for those children. I have the obligation to witness to the world the suffering we witnessed. I do not understand the mystery of why God does not step in and end their suffering, but I have faith in Him and his ways

    Comment by JA Benson — October 31, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  5. I have come to believe that for someone(s) this is an earthly test. They have the opportunity to change the fate of those little ones and they choose to ignore the suffering. This is evil.

    I am with you on both ideas. I really do believe that the suffering in the world is a test for those with the resources to help. And for evil to reign the righteous are not required to do anything.

    Another point is that while those, who suffer for a moment and then die without having any opportunities on earth, get from this life what they came here to get, those, who grow up dysfunctional because of all the neglect, may be a part of how prophecies are fulfilled. You know, to paraphrase Family Proclamation, the neglect they endure will – in part – bring about the calamities that prophets have foretold.

    It may seem like we’re fighting a losing battle. But ultimately the Lord’s people will triumph. I feel very strongly about this quotation from Preach My Gospel:

    All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

    Comment by Velska — November 1, 2008 @ 6:24 am

  6. I should have added that I do believe that Satan influences us in our decisons to do right or wrong. Once he has our heart we allow him stronger powers to suggest evil thoughts and works. However he does not make us do anything and often it is our own natural (wo)man that often does or thinks evil by his/her self.

    The Atonement of Christ is the answer, but for the children in Hong Mei’s orphanage that realization will most likely happen in the spirit world after a hard and sad life. It is hard fcor me to look at the situation with earthy eyes squinting to see the eternites through that dark glass that Paul speaks of.

    Comment by JA Benson — November 1, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  7. A great Bishop I had explained that suffering comes from four ways.

    1. It rains on everyone. The consequence of a physical body and living on this earth brings pain and suffering. Natural disasters, disease are examples.

    2. Suffering as a consequence of sin. We bring suffering on ourselves by not obeying the commandments. This can be both physical and spiritual consequence.

    3. Suffering comes from natural consequences. You put your hand on a hot stove and you suffer the consequence, step in front of a truck…same thing.

    4. Suffering comes when God tries us. God puts us thru some trials, problems and suffering to test and try us. To make us better

    You can’t get out of this life without suffering….some more than others.

    The most profound thing I’ve discovered about suffering, is “I’m glad I’ve got my trials.” When I look at what others have or are suffering, I’m always glad for mine.

    Comment by Don — November 1, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  8. I do not understand the mystery of why God does not step in and end their suffering, but I have faith in Him and his ways.

    It is important that we learn faith, but I think the mystery of why God steps in sometimes and not others has to do with the reason for our existence in this life. The general rule is that he does not step in. We are here to be tested, and it is our test, not his. When he does step in, it is because of our faith and “that the purposes of God maybe fulfilled.” In other words, when there is a divine purpose that overrides the general rule.

    Comment by MCQ — November 1, 2008 @ 3:09 pm

  9. The most profound thing I’ve discovered about suffering, is “I’m glad I’ve got my trials.” When I look at what others have or are suffering, I’m always glad for mine.

    Amen Don. It is kinda difficult to see my happy bright little girl struggle to overcome the effects of neglect, abuse, and hunger. She is one of the “lucky ones”. We rejoice that compared to others who have similarly suffered she will overcome. Compared to the ones left behind she won the lottery. It is just tough to remember the others.

    It is important that we learn faith, but I think the mystery of why God steps in sometimes and not others has to do with the reason for our existence in this life. The general rule is that he does not step in. We are here to be tested, and it is our test, not his. When he does step in, it is because of our faith and “that the purposes of God maybe fulfilled.” In other words, when there is a divine purpose that overrides the general rule.

    I agree MCQ. We believe that she was saved for a purpose. I get that, but why not the others? It gives me chills when I think about it. What IF we had not choosen to follow the prompting by the spirit to adopt her. Our family would have missed out on such a dear sweet relationship.

    Comment by JA Benson — November 1, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  10. Thank you, Don, for sharing that. It is very concise and to the point. Your bishop was a wise man.

    Comment by Velska — November 2, 2008 @ 5:20 am

  11. [...] have written elsewhere about suffering. I think that in all suffering there is a test for those who have the means to [...]

    Pingback by Mormons And Politics: What Counts In Life « Velska’s Blog — November 6, 2008 @ 5:58 am

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