Answers!

It’s funny how sometimes when you have a question the answer isn’t that too terribly far behind!  Or at least some possible answers.

Saturday night I posted a few questions:  If we can’t blame God when bad things happen (because it wasn’t His fault) then why do we give Him thanks when bad things don’t happen?  If it wasn’t His fault that bad things happened, is it to His credit when bad things don’t happen?  And if it is, why do bad things happen to some people and not to others.   Ok…. I’m adding to the question, but only because I’ve had time to continue to formulate it since Saturday night.   Since then I’ve gotten a few responses!

One came this morning from Debbie who happened to find a blog entry by Fr. Mike Schmitz which actually asked the same question.

HOW COME WHENEVER SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS I AM SUPPOSED TO THANK GOD, BUT WHEN SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS, I CAN’T BLAME HIM?

I can try and answer that in theory. But when it comes to the heart, this is a great wound that can only be healed through prayer. When it comes to suffering and the depths of agony that many people endure, there is no simple answer. I need to make that clear right off the bat.

And yet, we need to try. First, crying out to God in the middle of pain is not prohibited at all. In fact, there is an entire book of the Bible consisting of the Chosen People’s lament to a God who seems impassive to human suffering. Many of the Psalms were written in tears and confusion and frustration. If you have ever prayed like that, you most likely know that these can be the most genuine conversations with God we can have. God values honesty; this includes honesty in prayer. God isn’t interested in hearing us tell Him how great He is when what is really in our hearts are questions and tears.

At the same time, why do we need to thank God for good and not blame Him for evil? Some atheists will claim that this idea is just “clever marketing” on the part of the “God people” to get God off the hook. He has to be praised and thanked but never blamed. But this isn’t our way of “defending” God’s fragile ego. This is simply being accurate. God is good. More precisely, God is Goodness Itself. All of our notions of “good” come from Him. In fact, the degree to which a thing conforms to God is the level of “goodness” it has. The degree to which it is a distortion of God or a lack of God is the level of evil.

Many of us make the mistake of thinking that when God created the world, he made good things and bad things. But remember, God is goodness itself. Evil cannot come from Him because evil can be defined as the degree to which a thing is a distortion of or lack of God. God did not make evil. He made all things good. This is why we thank and praise God for every good thing.

So what is evil? Evil is not a thing in the same way that good is a thing. A long time ago, a wise man was able to explain it in this way: God only created good. Evil is “merely” a distortion or privation of the good. So, eating food is a good thing. Eating too much or too little is a distortion of the good of eating food. In another example, blindness is not a “thing”; it is a privation of a natural good: sight. Paralysis is not a thing; it is a lack of a natural good: mobility. So saying we may not blame God for bad things is not our way of walking on eggs shells around Him as if He couldn’t take us telling Him the truth. It’s just that, if we blame God for evil, we’ve got the wrong guy. He isn’t, in fact, the one to blame.

Now, the question naturally arises: if evil doesn’t come from God, then at least He could stop it if He wanted. Can’t I just blame God for not putting an end to evil? There is no easy answer to that question. But let me offer this brief one: Evil is the natural consequence of our being free. We can choose good or we can choose “not good”. Unless God is going to constantly step in and only allow us to choose good, evil is always going to be possible. But if He did that, we would not actually be free. In God’s wisdom, He allows us to choose wrong and do evil to each other for the sake of a greater good: that we also have the ability to love. We have the ability to hurt, but we also have the ability to heal.

In the midst of unbearable anguish and in the face of death, we may be tempted to doubt whether freedom is worth it. That question remains. Is it worth it? I don’t know that I could ever “prove” that, but this is where faith enters. God says it is worth it, and so I trust Him and draw near to Him in my pain…and so can you.

The other answer came yesterday when it was all quiet around here.  Marc and Zoe were both having naps and Catherine was watching a show on Netflix.  Because it was Sunday and I don’t write on Sundays except the odd blog entry,  I took the opportunity to take a peek at Fr. Groeschel’s book Tears of God that has been sitting on our mantle for months waiting to be returned to John Dawson in Salmon Arm.

Fr. Groeschel said he wrote his book Tears of God

 . . . especially for those who are experiencing or have recently experienced horror or catastrophe.

At first I didn’t think that Marc and I fell into that category of horror or catastrophe but he later wrote:

 . . . add to them [his list of what fell into the category of catastrophe] the death of small children, whose terminal illnesses are catastrophic.  The death of an older person, although it may leave many people deeply saddened, is not usually considered a catastrophe; when the person is the mother or father of small children, however, it deserves that distinction.

He started out in his introduction:

As we prepare to do this [go through the book], it is important to keep in mind that we are created by the all-powerful God to have joy and complete fulfillment.  This is what awaits us after the end of this difficult life.  Men are enmeshed in what is called, ‘the problem of evil’.  Sacred Scripture gives, in a very simple way, the origin of the evils that beset men, descendants of the first parents called Adam and Eve.  Why this evil comes down upon us all is completely mystery . . . evil appears to have no answer at all if you do not believe in God and to be very puzzling even if you do.

It seems to me that Christians concentrating on the infinite power and goodness of God often miss the fact that human life is a great battle, as Saint Thomas called it, ‘a strange duel between good and evil.’

We as Catholics accept the idea of Mystery all the time:   The Mystery of the Incarnation, The Mystery of the Immaculate Conception, The Mystery of the Trinity.  We accept that there are some things revealed to us but really we can’t understand them in this life.   And the thought that maybe the question of ‘WHY’ falls into that realm of Mystery was surprisingly comforting.  Why does one child fall and walk away unhurt and the next child have the same fall and it’s fatal?  Did God intervene so the one child survived but didn’t intervene with the child who died?  Was it purely a freak accident?  Is there really a Divine plan?  Did God’s will come into play?   Is He playing favorites?  Mystery.  God could no sooner help us understand it than He could help us comprehend the Trinity.    I guess I just thought that maybe there should be some tangible answer.  Maybe the answer is as vast as God Himself.  Mystery!  And maybe the answer to WHY? just has to wait until we’re in heaven and capable of understanding it.

Fr. Groeschel takes another stab at it when he writes:

People of faith must struggle to bring their catastrophes or even horrors into some kind of relationship with the reassurance of God’s love.  The mysterious fact is that dreadful things can happen to the person who has trust in God.

Often there are examples of dreadful things that did not happen, but there are examples of those dreadful things that did happen.  The question becomes “Is God playing games with us?”  This is where a person of faith must adopt a broad vision.  The purpose of this life is not to bring us to permanent happiness here on earth.  The question is:  What do we see as the purpose of life?  For the Christian believer, the purpose of life must be seen as the entrance to eternal life.

And he quotes John 14:1-6.

Looking at it from the perspective of What do we see as the purpose of life? certainly changes it up a little and gives me more to ponder.

 

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