John 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Let’s break down the sources of suffering. There is your own sin, the sin of others (we can call these moral sins or evils), and then there are natural disasters or biological unfairness, which as Jesus mentions above is unsourced, i.e., no one is to blame, no punishment imparted. Clearly it’s God’s will, however, since everything is, or so says my insurance which calls Tornados and Lightning “Acts of God.”
The response to suffering in John 9, in my interpretation, is that suffering is what creates or is the impetus of human compassion. For many people the spiritual growth or imparting compassion argument is just not a good enough justification of suffering because it does not compute with the idea of a loving God who has his hand in things. Here are a couple different Christian responses:
Natural Evil = Satan
Natural Evil = Original Sin
Natural evil = God’s Judgment
Natural Evil = God’s Design
This last one fascinates me and is argued in crazy detail here:
In summation, the argument claims that earth was created to adhere to physical laws and scientific principles and these require ebb and flow of all things within the creation. I kind of read it as “don’t take that earthquake personally.” They go on to argue that there is a scientific benefit and purpose to all natural things that cause suffering — earthquakes (tectonic activity has purpose) and fires (remove deadwood, distribute and/or germinate seed) and viruses (inspiring vaccinations, gene therapy, maintaining healthy bacteria growth healthy ecosystems and populations). So the fact that people fall in harms way as these things play out is not a reflection of an unloving God, but simply a result of living within an amazing, huge, boundless, god-created world.
What do you think of that? I like it but want to know, where is the love in this explanation?
I don’t have the answers, obviously, but I am tempted to see suffering on two planes — the impersonal (natural) and the personal (moral) — viewing one with acceptance and humility and the other with outrage and action. Then I see that, in the end, it all becomes personal suffering. In other words, no matter the suffering source, I still have the same response. So again, I am driven back to Jesus’ lesson of compassion and enhancing my connection to humanity when suffering happens.
For some reason, this explanation and course of action is enough for me to manage suffering without complete despair. Is it enough for you or is suffering a roadblock?