God And Suffering Essay, Research Paper
Why do men suffer? This is a question that has been pondered by countless philosophers and theologians for many thousands of years. Some believe that God brings down suffering upon those of us who sin. Others view man s suffering as an indiscriminate act of God. The only certainty with respects to this timeless question is that a definite answer does not, and will never, exist. With the desire to delve further into the question of suffering, we examined three books, which attempt to shoot to the very core of the question. The first is the Book of Job from the Old Testament. This classic story of a man who struggles with the determination of his faith through great torment and loss is one of the earliest attempts to climb this mountainous issue. The second book is Elie Wiesel s Nobel Peace Prize winning novel, Night. This is the story of one man s experience of unimaginable horror and his consequent loss of faith during the Jewish Holocaust. The final book that we will examine is When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner. This is an account of Rabbi Kushner s reexamination of faith after the loss of his beloved son. Such questions as How could an all powerful God allow good men to suffer? and Is God merciful and Just? arise frequently when one examines one s faith in the light of tragedy and heartbreak. Although there is no definitive answer as to why men suffer, there cannot be a more faith healing explanation than Rabbi Kushner s insight into why good men are allowed to suffer. God is kind and just, but He does not have the boundless power to control nature and to put an end to suffering. The Book of Job is the first great venture into this awesome question. Job was a good man of great fortune and blessed with many children. This was until one day when Job s accuser said unto The Lord, just reach out and strike everything that he has, and I bet he ll curse you to your face. The Lord then replied, All right: everything he has in your power. Just don t lay a hand on him. A wager is made and Job consequently suffers the loss of his children, his wealth, and is left to ponder his fate as a foul smelling wretch on the street. Job is left to ponder three questions that his friends address so that they might make some sense out of Job s suffering: Is God all powerful ? , Is God kind and just? , and Is Job a good man? . Although Job s friends decide that suffering comes from God, and that Job must not really be a good man, Job is unsatisfied and struggles to answer any of the three questions negatively. Job wonders, If only good men are not meant to suffer, then why do bad men prosper? God must be unjust. As the story goes, Job finds himself unable to curse God for his great suffering, and in return he is rewarded with twice the prosperity that he enjoyed before this awful wager began. The question remains unresolved. Despite the fact that Job s story raises the three questions that are vital to understanding why good men suffer, it leaves the stomach unsettled and the heart searching for something more. The reason why The Book of Job is so unsettling is that even though Job is rewarded in the end for his refusal to curse God, it leaves even the most pious man questioning God s kindness and justice. How could a kind and just God allow a man to be stripped of his wealth and dignity so that he might be the focus of a game of chance? How could a kind and just God allow a man s sons and daughters to be horribly killed so that he might test the faith and convictions of one man? Any man who claims to love God cannot, in good faith, accept that God is unkind and unjust. Admitting to such a notion would be exactly like denouncing God and all of his creeds, for why would a man follow a God who does not set an example of his own laws of conduct? Rabbi Kushner said it best when he stated, It is just to hold God to his own standards of justice. This very rational line of thinking allows us to crush the notion that God makes men suffer so that others may grow stronger. This notion is a farce, because any God loving man, regardless of differences in creed, believes that God is all forgiving. He would not strike any man down. He would endeavor to pick the fallen man back up. This is Our Lord. This is Our Father. Few stories can capture the absolute horror of innocent men and women suffering than those of the Nazi extermination camps. Night is a stunning account of Nazi atrocities as they were seen through the eyes of a fifteen year old boy, Eliezer. Elie Wiesel tells of the loss of his mother and sister, and the eventual death of his father after a courageous fight to survive. He paints vivid pictures of brethren turning against each other over crumbs, and he haunts the soul with accounts of beatings and executions. One cannot help but put the book down between chapters so that they might collect their composure. These are stories that can only insight rage against a God who would allow so many millions of innocents to perish at the hands of evil. These are stories that can destroy the faith of even the greatest of believers. For the young victim, God had always been an important aspect of his life. He spent time studying the cabbala and discussing his faith with Moshe the Beadle at the synagogue in the small town of Sighet. This young victim traveled the path of his life on moral ground and he praised the name of the Lord until he was no longer able to offer his faith and his heart up to God. Everything had been taken with from him He suffered so much that life was far more agonizing than the prospect of a quick and swift death. Eventually this young Jewish boy finds himself pondering the same questions that Job struggled with thousands of years earlier. Is God all powerful? Is God kind and just? Am I a good man? Like Job, the young boy is unable to answer these three questions. However, Job had greater convictions of faith than this young boy. Job was able to stand up to the test that God had set before him, but Eliezer could not believe that God would test his faith in such a way. Our narrator recalls his defiance against faith while he was a prisoner at the Buchenwald death camp, Man is too small, too humble and inconsiderable to seek to understand the mysterious ways of God. But what can I do? I m not a sage, one of the elect, nor a saint. I m just and ordinary creature of flesh and blood. I ve got eyes, too, and can see what they re doing here. Where is the divine Mercy? Where is God? How can I believe, how could anyone believe, in this merciful God? If it is too difficult to deny that God is good and merciful, then, in the face of such suffering, one s only option would be to deny God s existence.
For Elie Wiesel it was enough to deny the existence of God, but this is not an acceptable answer to the question of why men suffer. In the young boy s memoirs in Night, Wiesel denies God in an attempt to rationalize the horrors around him. Through various passages in the book, it becomes evident that the young boy never truly losses his faith. Questioning God was merely a defense mechanism. Perhaps it would be far to frightening to wonder what potentially evil forces exist; forces that God cannot control. Does God control Mother Nature, and human nature? Can he stop famine and end disease? If the answer is yes , then God could not be kind and just. If the answer is no , then the power of The Lord has been misconceived for many thousands of years. When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner, is the one book that puts the question of faith and suffering into a comfortable perspective. Rabbi Kushner was forced to reexamine his faith and to reject his traditional views on suffering after he experienced to horror of losing a child. After his son, Aaron, died of progeria, he found that none of his friends words of consolation were in the least bit comforting to him. None of their explanations or rationalizations could bring him peace. Nobody seemed to understand his pain. He could not understand why this had happened to him. In an attempt to find some answers, Kushner went back to the Book of Job to look deeper within its ancient poetry. When the rabbi paged through the text, he spotted a line of text, which did not sit quite well with him. God is so great that he does not have to be fair. Sensing that some thing was amiss, he went over the same three questions that Job did before him. He could not believe that was not kind and just. He was certain that he had lived his life as he should. What was left? Kushner then deliberated, Perhaps God is not in control He is indeed very great, but not all powerful. The only questions that remain are: If God does not cause man s suffering, then what does? , and If He is not all-powerful, then how does he intervene? Exploring the nature of Kushner s God ends up being far easier to try and comprehend than other traditional images of God. Kushner s image of God is that of a kind and just God who is very great, but not all powerful. It is more comforting to believe that God is endlessly compassionate, and that he suffers with us through our pain. There is no greater example of this God than the story of Yeshua. Here is a man who endeavored to teach men of love and compassion. To preach kindness and forgiveness, and to set the ultimate example through his own moral conduct. He suffered and died on the cross so that God s power could be projected across the world, and so man would follow in His example of goodness. His power is projected by human kindness. It is incarnated in man s ability to understand the sacrifice of Yeshua, and His power is seen when men sacrifice themselves in the name of peace, love, prosperity, and consolation. Yet, as it has been said, God s power is not limitless. There are other forces that cause suffering. Some cause suffering with no cognition of what is being done, and others cause suffering with an evil indifference. The force that causes suffering is, as Harold Kushner put it, nature. Nature can include violent weather, human cruelty, disease, famine, hatred, etc. There is no way in which nature can ever be stopped from causing pain and suffering. There will never be a world without suffering, but as long as there is love and kindness, God will always have a presence. Through the interpretation of the aforementioned readings it seems that the strongest theory is that God is kind and just, but He does not have the boundless power to control nature . It is true that suffering will always exist, but if we endeavor to make God more powerful with our kindness and justice, then the world will continue to become a more wonderful place. Follow His example.