Finding Meaning in Suffering: Part 1

Aaron R. aka Rico Mormon 42 Comments

Two of the writers I have come to admire most over the last year have both said that they do not believe all suffering is meaningful, but I struggle to accept that emotionally even though it makes sense intellectually.  Lowell Bennion was once asked about suffering and he replied ‘I haven’t suffered that much, but I think there is more human suffering than we need in order to develop human values, to teach us the meaning and value of life, compassion for other people… Some people are exposed to suffering beyond any possible value to them.’ [1]  Similarly, Clive James, in speaking of those who would not denounce their (previously) murderous regimes, has offered a possible explanation for why: ‘their reluctance to accept that so much suffering could be wasted’ [2].

I accept Bennion’s argument and I am also inspired by it.  For it makes me sense that their is a responsibility which falls upon me to alleviate all the suffering I can, rather than passively sitting back pontificating upon the meaning of our trials.

Yet, I too feel that I am reluctant to accept that so much suffering could be wasted.

My step-father was recently diagnosed with Motor Neurones Disease and will physically decay while maintaining all his mental faculties until at some point he will suffocate or drown.

If he wants to see meaning in his suffering is that a bad thing, even though it may be false?  Is it false?  It is possible that in someone trying to find meaning in their suffering they could actually realise that meaning; for instance they may become more patient or considerate.  Although I am uncomfortable with the idea that God inflicts people with such experiences for their profit and learning, I can accept that God wants us to find some light in even the darkest abyss.

However, I am aware that there is some suffering, which people inflict upon others that I would find it difficult to discover some meaning.  Female Circumcision or Rape or many others.

Contrastingly, I have been inspired by those who recognise that ‘being comfortable with not making sense of suffering, or realising that we don’t have all the answers and that contradiction and unfairness is part of mortality’ [3].  Such a view requires as much faith as trying to find meaning in suffering. Yet I wonder whether such a view leads to a different form of that passivity regarding the suffering around us mentioned earlier.

In addition, I believe that Ostler is right when he acknowledges that God suffers more not less because of his divinity.  Ostler also argues that Christ condescends to mortality in order that he might experience the alienation and isolation of this life, something he could not know before, so that he could perfect his empathy, compassion and love.

In this God finds meaning in his own suffering, because it helps Him minster to us, because it helps him understand and love more deeply us.  Yet I am not sure our experience and Christs (as Ostler sees it) are compatible because his is still voluntarily chosen and so much of our suffering is inflicted.

Though I do not believe all suffering is meaningful, I would never say that to anyone else who had really suffered.  Because I am not convinced there is no meaning in suffering, whereas I am confident that it is not bad to find it there; if we can.

Notes:

1. Lowell L. Bennion, Lowell L. Bennion: Teacher, Counselor, Humanitarian [Salt Lake City, UT: Dialogue Foundation, 1995] p. 354.

2. Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the Margin of my Time [London: Picador, 2007] p. 253.

3. White, Making Sense of Suffering, Dialogue, (vol. 25, no. 2, 1992, p. 115).

Comments

comments

Comments 42

  1. Good post. I think it points out that God does not control us the way some people beleive. Frankly, some people have suffered way too much and some way too little.

    While I think it important that we experience trials, that does not have to include suffering especially when it involves intense pain. While we may gain from trials, I would not subscribe to the idea that we have to suffer.

    On the other hand, we can experience different types of suffering which do not involve physical pain. And I don’t think we either sign up for or volunteer for suffering. Not at least in the same way that Christ did.

    It’s a part of life that comes with being, I suspose.

  2. I really appreciated this post. I’m certainly of the James and Bennion camp of there is more suffering in this world than I would like or than is necessary. I also think that metaphysical concerns over suffering along the lines of what God is feeling or can feel miss the point for us mere mortals.

    I am not inspired by those who are “comfortable with not making sense of suffering”, but there is a small modicum of solace that mortals are all in this together. Suffering doesn’t make sense, but I don’t want to be comfortable with the idea.

    The questions that each person needs to ask themselves is am I relieving or creating suffering in my personal life, in my religious beliefs, in my political beliefs and in my actions? These are not easy questions. Unfortunately, in my experience religious belief has caused a large amount of unnessecary suffering through guilt, shaming and self-righteousness, ie Mountain Meadows, 9-11, Mormons in Missouri, Ireland, and the Crusades on a macro level and the families and lives torn apart over religious disputes on the micro level. Maybe Jesus really did bring the sword.

    The only answering to suffering is ultimately a personal one, because life is a veil of tears. How do you eliminate suffering with those you come in contact? Actually implementing action that decreases suffering is much more difficult than just thinking about it.

  3. Trying to make sense of suffering is a profound topic that has formed the basis of many religions, etc. Christianity and Islam don’t necessarily purport to relieve suffering in this life, but state that things will be made better in the next life. This very question is essentially the foundation of Buddhism, for example. Its basic 4 noble truths include:

    – Life involves suffering
    – Suffering is caused by cravings or attachments
    – We can relieve suffering when we truly see things as they are
    – There is a path to achieve this

    Personally, I think suffering is just a part of life. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the LDS religion offers many “tools” for dealing with this. There are various teachings meant to offer some support, but at the time of suffering, they don’t seem like much more than cheerleading. And while it’s not what is taught, the practical effect of the LDS emphasis on checklists (ie. having FHE, WofW, church meetings, etc.) makes one naturally feel that suffering comes because you are somehow “unworthy” as there is always something you’re not doing.

    I was initially drawn to studying Buddhism because of some events in my own life involving suffering. There are some very practical ways of getting a grip on suffering there that I haven’t found anywhere else. They have helped me tremendously in my life. And, ironically, they have actually helped me in my faith in the LDS religion.

  4. Rico,
    Thanks for the post–especially the Lowell Bennion quote. I have been turned off by comments in church classes about suffering being a positive, a necessary part of our earthly education. I like your idea that although God does not cause suffering for our instruction, it is possible for us to find meaning in and to learn through painful experiences.

    Mike S,
    I too find Buddhist philosophy more helpful in dealing with suffering and pain than LDS teachings. Acceptance and nonattachment work much better for me than trying to avoid suffering by keeping every commandment perfectly.

    The belief that suffering is caused by God either for punishment or instruction may harden us to the suffering of fellow beings we should be helping.

  5. Post
    Author

    Thank you all for your comments so far.

    #1 – I think another perspective which might emerge from my ideas is that God does not have the power to alleviate all suffering, which is why he does not. But this is I suspect perhaps a little more controversial. Plus seeing as we are old friends now, I appreciate your kind regard for my post.

    #2 – I like your distinction between accepting that suffering does not make sense but not being comfortable with that. I think that is valuable and perhaps helps us not become passive.

    #3 – Ironically, Eugene England thinks that we have not yet produced brilliant and tragic art because we do a good job of dealing with the anxieties of other faiths. I sense however that is rather that people are not allowed to struggle with their trials because that is what heathens do. Also, I have to praise you for finding the good in otehr religions and making it practisable in your own. I admit I do not do that enough.

    #4 – Although I used to meditate regularly I have not spent a massive amount of time in Buddhist philosophy and think I will have to spend more time there.

  6. If he wants to see meaning in his suffering is that a bad thing, even though it may be false? Is it false? It is possible that in someone trying to find meaning in their suffering they could actually realise that meaning; for instance they may become more patient or considerate.

    Isn’t meaning brokered by people? So if someone sees meaning in the suffering, then full stop! They see meaning in the suffering! They realize the meaning through changes.

    I think the issue here is we want *objective* meaning…we want meaning signified from an ultimate signifier. But maybe the “purpose” of suffering is to show us that an ultimate signifier (say, God) doesn’t give us meaning. *We* do.

  7. Rico,

    If you have not read Emmanuel Levinas’ Essay Useless Suffering I recommend it. He critiques theodicy and describes the movement from suffering to the interhuman. I have have an article in the current issue of dialogue that briefly addresses the process of reconciling ourselves to suffering that has no meaning.

  8. I’m not sure I find meaning in all suffering. I’m not sure God micromanages things like suffering and inflicts it lovingly on His people.

    I recognize that much of what we see as “suffering” is really just agency. And there is meaning in agency. Pol Pot, John Brown, and Jesus all had moral agency. This is the agency to inflict suffering on others, and the agency to exercise love on one another as well, and it wouldn’t really be agency if it truly had no consequences.

    In the case of natural suffering, illness, natural disasters, etc., I think there is room for discussion.

  9. I agree with Andrew S. Meaning is often a somewhat arbitrary assignment to make. To look for higher meaning in many scenarios is vain, but we can execute one of the highest functions of our moral agency—to create meaning where none exists, even where it seems none can exist. That is part of what it means to me to act, rather than to be acted upon.

  10. I believe that the “meaning” one finds from anything in life (suffering or otherwise) comes from one’s reaction, not the thing being reacted to. Given nearly identical circumstances, one person will “find meaning” where the other won’t.

    I agree with Bennion that many experience suffering beyond what is useful to them, personally. But I think their suffering may have meaning for others. Particularly, I see that in the suffering of the elderly prior to death. Sometimes I can’t see what they could possibly get out of the experience, but I’ve see their family get a lot.

  11. Rico, a thoughtful post.

    I am not impressed by the various theologies that attempt to argue that suffering is meaningful, or that it serves some greater good. As you pointed out, some of us coast merrily through life, while others suffer horribly. It’s completely unfair.

    And that leads me to conclude that we exist in a heartless, random, unjust universe — and that for some reason, that is the only environment God could place us in so that we become what he intends we become. That may conflict somewhat with the classical conception of God’s omnipotence. But if God is defined as a being who has experienced existence in a heartless, random, unjust universe — as Christ did, and maybe God the Father, depending on which interpretation of the King Follett discourse you follow — then it is impossible, by definition, for a being who has not experienced life in such a universe, to be God.

    And if God wants us to be God — to become the same kind of being He is — then maybe the only way for that to happen, is for us to take our chances with this random universe, and deal with its injustice as best we can. We have faith in a loving Father in Heaven; if there were any other way, I trust he would have chosen it. That might sound Panglossian, but the alternative is to simply despair and deny God altogether.

  12. #11. Hmm. This seems close to how I feel. I’m not one to constantly demand explanations from God. I just think that God’s plan is so perfect that it can operate smoothly and correctly no matter what idiocy we unleash. Or what natural forces combine to create.

  13. Have you ever read Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl? Wiki “logotherapy” and you’ll find his thoughts on the subject.

  14. 11. Although despair may lead to a denial of God, I would not say that a denial of God equates with despair. –and I know that’s not what you are saying. I agree with the gist of your post.

    Perhaps the point of this unjust and painful existence is to perfect ‘man’ to the point where ‘he’ does not need God at all. He can stand on his own feet and decide humanity can fight for justice and equality without the fear of God to drive them on. In that sense, the purpose of pain and suffering is to propel us as fellow human beings to do what we can to alleviate that suffering. Not because it makes us God like, or out of fear of God’s punishments, or loss of blessings if we don’t, but simply because that’s how humans have decided to treat each other. Maybe then God will nod his head and say ‘finally, they get it.’

  15. I have been thinking about the meaning of suffering a lot as of late. I have not been able to resolve the conflict between an all powerful and an all loving God.

    If God is truly ALL POWERFUL he could do anything He wants. Therefore He could bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man in any way he chose – so why choose so much gratuitous suffering? If God is truly ALL LOVING he would not destroy his creations in such horrible ways.

    I cannot see how God can be both All Powerful and All Loving. Any thoughts?

  16. Re 14
    echo *golf clap*

    Additionally, in the Mormon context “we are not tempted above that which we are able.” Couple this with D&C 122 and I think you have the basis for suffering in Mormon thought. Stuff happens but we derive comfort from the fact that, not only is it the “refiner’s fire” but that Christ descended below it all, and surely we are not greater than Him. This idea has never worked for me as one can always call upon this explanation to tell oneself that it “could always be worse.” Add in the checklist Mike S referred to and you have a recipe for guilt and self-condemnation, but also for a positive outlook with humility and reverence for Christ. We become some kind of weird self-critical optimist bent on working harder in the future and re-dedicating our lives to the cause.

    I quite like your idea, Rico, that we find meaning in our suffering whether it has meaning objectively or not. For me, the follow-on argument is that maybe this doesn’t only apply to suffering, but also other “objective” truths we so readily want to insist upon and take for granted. Maybe there is less objective meaning in this world than we Mormons like to think!

  17. I really enjoyed this article, very well written and inciteful. I have searched my feelings and prayed for years as to why some people suffer so much, to be honest perhaps a little cultural amnesia is essential only a God could withstand the burden.

    I see God as a supreme opportunist through the natural occurrence of misfortune and suffering. In this life or the next we have a story to tell that will help another. I too don’t believe that all suffering is meaningful, the belief system that God tries us to teach us a lesson is dangerous, further the belief system that by prayer God “WILL” intercede is spiritually crippling.

    The real point I wanted to express is that, we are powerful; we each have the potential to do something extraordinary, at one point in our lifetime we will be faced with the opportunity to do something unique. help in the life of another, alleviate pain, help someone who is sick or in need, be they a widow an child a family an addict. This world is full of opportunity to help others. Science has progressed to the point in which by being a donor you can help. Donate blood, check bone marrow compatibility. Register as a Donor.

  18. There are many who resolve the theodicy question (very similar, and related to the problem of pain and suffering) by believing that God is a non-interventionist and panentheistic. Marcus Borg:

    Let me start by talking about evil in relationship to that supernatural interventionist model of God. A major problem that I and other theologians have had with the supernaturalist, interventionist model of God is that it makes it very difficult to explain how things like the Holocaust, or TWA 800 exploding in the sky, or the individual and random tragedies that people experience all the time, can happen. If we think that God can intervene when God chooses to, then it become incomprehensible how God could have let the Holocaust happen. If we think that God sometimes intervenes to heal people of catastrophic and life threatening illness, then it becomes incomprehensible why God doesn’t do that for everybody who’s got premature cancer, let’s say. All of those problems become utterly insoluble it seems to me with the interventionist model of God. Some 30 years ago, Bishop John Robinson, who wrote Honest to God listed three reason why atheism is the only attractive modern option–and he was thinking of atheism in relationship to the supernatural model of God. One of those [reasons was that] God is morally intolerable. His point is the one I’m just making. If God could intervene but chooses not to, then God is morally intolerable. For the panentheistic model of God, the notion of God as a being outside of the process, who sometimes intervenes, simply disappears. With a panentheistic model, God is present in everything and God is the source of everything–that doesn’t mean God is the source of everything that happens, but God is present in everything. I think most of the suffering that occurs in the world is not because of natural disasters or even because of illness or, let’s say, natural causes of death, most of the suffering in the world comes from structural or systemic evil, from social structure, political structures, that function to oppress millions of people, deprive them of adequate nourishment, deprive them of adequate medical care, and add to that all the wars in human history that are caused by evil social structure, or unjust social structures. So I think most of the evil–in the sense of suffering that occurs in the world–is because of humanly created social structures.

    Also, I just finished reading Hesse’s Siddhartha, and the main character therein achieves enlightenment as he understands the interconnectedness of all things, living and dead, where deliverance, joy, and salvation cannot exist without corresponding oppression, suffering, and damnation. Siddhartha realizes that time is not real, and that all things are simultaneously being born, living, dying, suffering, and achieving nirvana. The suffering is something that all things endure.

    Of course, neither one of these approaches jive with LDS theology (c.f. the first vision, and a disbelief in reincarnation). But considering that LDS doctrine allows for the vast majority of the world’s population to continue to have opportunities for spiritual progression after their physical deaths, and considering the relatively infrequent instances of god’s intercession in human history, perhaps God _is_ less hands-on than we make him out to be precisely because if he were more interactive, it would both make him terribly unjust for refusing to interact to prevent massive human tragedies and injustices, as well as limit the potential benefit of human suffering in an eternal spiritual progression context.

  19. Finding value in suffering can obviously be comforting to one who has suffered a great deal. But I definitely think the value of suffering is over emphasized as a means of providing comfort to a sufferer when the truth is most of it is unnecessary and of no value to anyone.

  20. Personally, I think suffering is just a part of life. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the LDS religion offers many “tools” for dealing with this other than those that the early saints found successful in dealing with the repeated persecutions and losses from New York to the occupation by Johnson’s army in Utah …

    I think the real problem is that we have lost the approaches that they had, which, while part of the culture and the doctrine, do not mesh well with the strain of neo-calvanism that has crept into the Church.

  21. And if God wants us to be God — to become the same kind of being He is — then maybe the only way for that to happen, is for us to take our chances with this random universe, and deal with its injustice as best we can

    I’d put in links to the various posts I’ve done on this subject, but the spam filter eats posts with more than one link.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/05/11/affliction-final-post-in-the-series/ isn’t a bad spot for where my thoughts begin. I’ve experienced a little adversity in my life, which shapes my perspectives.

  22. working mother,

    I cannot see how God can be both All Powerful and All Loving. Any thoughts?

    In Mormon theology, God is not necessarily all-powerful. Good and evil are eternal principles, not creations of God. God therefore may not be able to create a universe in which evil does not exist. If that is the case, then God need only mitigate as much evil as possible to be all-loving. Since we know that all possible evil does not occur, it is possible that God is mitigating as much evil as possible. It is therefore possible that God is all-loving.

  23. Pingback: Meaning never required God « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  24. Budha gives some thoughts on suffering

    1. Suffering

    Suffering and frustration come from our difficulty in facing the basic fact of life that everything around us is impermanent and transitory. Rich or poor, average or gifted, all life is subjected to the following: the trauma of birth, the pathology of sickness, the fear of physical and mental degeneration, the phobia of death, karmically to be tied to what one distastes, or to be separated from what one loves. “All things must arise and pass away.”

    2. Desire

    The cause of suffering and frustration occurs because out of ignorance, we divide the perceived world into individual and separate things. The desire to pull apart from the rest of life and seek fulfillment for the separated self, at the expense of all other forms of life, causes suffering to the whole, as Life is One Being. Our duty to our brothers and sisters is to understand them as extensions, other aspects of ourselves, as fellow facets of the same reality.

    3. Suffering and Frustration Can Be Ended

    If the cause of life’s suffering is those inclinations which tend to continue or increase separativeness, in fact all forms of selfish craving, then its cure lies in the overcoming of such cravings. If we can be released from the narrow limits of self-interest into the vast expanse of universal life, we will be free of our torment.

  25. #6 – Although I agree, I wonder whether the type of meaning that we perceive into our suffering can still be something that is still real and whether it can be different if God does exist? The struggle to find meaning might produce different outcomes in an atehist, perhaps?

    #7 – Thanks Douglas, I have been meaning to read Levinas for a while now but have only dipped my toe in the past.

    #8 – Are you saying that natural disasters are the result of God’s loving action. I agreed with you up till that point and could not imagine you were saying what I thought you were.

    #13 – I read parts but was not overly impressed, except that I could not critique him because he lived it.

    #16 – Some would say he can’t be both. I would tend to agree. I would say God is maxiamlly powerful (i follow Ostler on this). But read Can God be all-powerful and all-loving by Eugene England in Dialogues with Myself, you might be able to find it online at Dialogue magazine.

    #17 – Actually I believe the objective truths we can find are far far less than we suppose. I am not convinced that anything i believe is really really how it is, rather just an ok approximation.

  26. kuri
    Nov 23rd, 2009 at 11:31 pm
    working mother,

    I cannot see how God can be both All Powerful and All Loving. Any thoughts?

    In Mormon theology, God is not necessarily all-powerful. Good and evil are eternal principles, not creations of God. God therefore may not be able to create a universe in which evil does not exist. If that is the case, then God need only mitigate as much evil as possible to be all-loving. Since we know that all possible evil does not occur, it is possible that God is mitigating as much evil as possible. It is therefore possible that God is all-loving.

    I thought your reply was interesting. How come I have never heard this explained at church? Where do you get this theology from? Have I missed this or just heard it in different ways?

  27. wm,

    It’s standard Mormon theology. From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

    OMNIPOTENCE. The Church affirms the biblical view of divine omnipotence (often rendered as “almighty”), that God is supreme, having power over all things. No one or no force or happening can frustrate or prevent him from accomplishing his designs (D&C 3:1-3). His power is sufficient to fulfill all his purposes and promises, including his promise of eternal life for all who obey him.

    However, the Church does not understand this term in the traditional sense of absoluteness, and, on the authority of modern revelation, rejects the classical doctrine of creation out of nothing. It affirms, rather, that there are actualities that are coeternal with the persons of the Godhead, including elements, intelligence, and law (D&C 93:29, 33, 35: 88:34-40). Omnipotence, therefore, cannot coherently be understood as absolutely unlimited power. That view is internally self-contradictory and, given the fact that evil and suffering are real, not reconcilable with God’s omnibenevolence or loving kindness (see Theodicy).

    But IME, theology per se doesn’t get discussed much in LDS church meetings. Sort of like what President Hinckley said, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it.” But it’s there.

  28. Arthur: you wrote:

    I’m not sure I find meaning in all suffering. I’m not sure God micromanages things like suffering and inflicts it lovingly on His people. (I agree)

    I recognize that much of what we see as “suffering” is really just agency. And there is meaning in agency. Pol Pot, John Brown, and Jesus all had moral agency. This is the agency to inflict suffering on others, and the agency to exercise love on one another as well, and it wouldn’t really be agency if it truly had no consequences. (I agree)

    In the case of natural suffering, illness, natural disasters, etc., I think there is room for discussion. (Room for what discussion. Are you saying that there is divine meaning in these types of suffering. Are you saying that these might be subject to human agency? Are you saying that there might be meaning in these sufferings but you are not sure.) I am not what the discussion room is here? Sorry for being unclear.

  29. Right ok, sorry. But do you have no opinion? Personally I ascribe those to the randomness of the universe and therefore not to God. However, accepting that nature miracles occur I see them as more problematic to explain away because we accept God’s power of these things, unless his maximally powerful position does not involve control of the randomness of nature as well. But this would seriously call into question the nature miracles that some might ascribe to. Moreover, if God does not have power over this then he is perhaps nto so different from a really smart scientist and therefore his worship-worthiness is being reduced.

  30. Why doesn’t God intercede more to prevent suffering?

    Rico mentioned “unless his maximally powerful position does not involve control of the randomness of nature as well”

    I enjoyed Reco’s musing in this last comment #32, I think we have to admit God is all powerful and can pre-empt any natural disaster, pain or suffering. The question is then, “O GOD, awhere art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy bhiding place?” I mentioned before the meaning behind suffering is not always for the individual but for the community, civilization, human race to wake up and do something about it.

    To be honest although I want to say that God cares about our suffering, sometimes I really doubt weather he does or not. Doctor Manhattan is a character created by Alan Moore that begins to loose empathy with the human race after realising the futility of existence a simple rock becomes just as beautiful and viable to him. There is life after death which makes our temporal state useful only in it’s lessons to those around us and to our capacity to develop spiritually in essence suffering is meaningless because it falls into insignificance compared to eternity.

  31. #35 – That you doubt God’s concern is one of the options for dealing with this, but not one I can accept. I would rather concede his all-powerful control of the elements. The reason being that this changes everything for me. If becoming like God lacks love and concern then it highlights another avenue to salvation, one that is down the route of power/knowledge. In this I acknowledge that I am not arguing from a position of seeking the truth but rather for my own comfort and solace. Because I could love a God who did not care, and if he did not care then I could not enter a relationship of at-onement with him. I see these as foundational, I can qualify omnipotence before I can qualify atonement.

    Further because I see suffering as eternal I do not accept the ‘but a small moment’ argument.

    For me a better and more perplexing question is why does God intervene sometimes (on accounts of some people) and in often trivial circumstances and not in others that are vital?

  32. “I would rather concede his all-powerful control of the elements.” (Peace be still)Christ demonstrated his power over the elements, God is all powerful the only way I see him omitting that power to intercede is through choice.

    “Further…I see suffering as eternal” I’m interested in this point do you mean that suffering will always exist because of worlds without ends or suffering will exist within the Heavens.

    “For me a better and more perplexing question is why does God intervene sometimes (on accounts of some people) and in often trivial circumstances and not in others that are vital?”

    I think this is a really good question, I would suggest that God hasn’t intervened in the majority of these occasions as reported including scriptural accounts.

  33. I am not convinced that God has power over the elements but more that is aware of might happen in the future. But of course I accept that this is my interpretation.

    In the original post I talk about Ostler’s view that God always suffers. I think suffering will exist in the heavens. I think Enoch’s encounter with the weeping God shows us that this is so.

    So do you think he did in the peace be still situation. I do believe God does intercede, but not as often as we believe. Moreover, I have seen miraculous things and also believe God has done some things for me. However, I feel guilty about believeing that because I do not consider my needs as great as many others. Nor do I think i have a special amount of faith.

  34. Scripturally, Jonah, Christ calming the storm, the events occurring at Christ’s Birth & Death would all indicate power over the elements. However our point is similar God rarely gets involved in natural disasters besides these moments I can’t think of any others, he can warn! why is he not warning us of these natural disasters ?

    I’m not disputing he loves us, but does he care ? A God who is the creator of all the universe, has seen the birth and death of stars, seen all the beauty of nature the magnificent designs of the animal world where do we compare in this temporal state we hold equal right for God to intercede on our behalf as do the trees in the rain forest, or the planet it’s self. Our existence starts to look more and more insignificant let alone our mediocre troubles.

    Why does God intercede? because it serves a greater purpose either in lesson, or the future actions of an individual those who don’t hold any apparent value are left to themselves. *** I would add that suffering does not equal unhappiness, those in developing countries who by definition are suffering poverty, starvation and a barrage of life life-threatening illnesses has a similar ratio of happiness to un-happiness as the US. perhaps this is God at work enabling peoples burdens to feel lighter.

    The story of Enoch is possibly just projection, or perhaps your right suffering is eternal and the only way to deal with it is to develop some sort of apathy toward suffering, otherwise he would constantly be like Christ who through godly empathy bled from every pore due to the pain and suffering of the world.

  35. #39 – I am sceptical as to whether Jonah is a real story. The events occuring at Christ birth and death I think could be coincidental. The sun standing still, the parting of the red sea would be others that I would have a harder time with. I think it would be difficult to explain these at all, if they are real which I have a tendency to accept. But I guess I do want to believe in a God that control nature.

    I think God cares because, in order to be God, and also by nature of being God, he needs peers, other divine persons to share that life with.

    You raise an interesting point about the trees issue. I think my initial response is that Trees do not get involved in petitionary prayer. But there might be damage to those life-forms if other disasters are avoided or controlled.

    I think he is constantly like Christ is his capacity to experience suffering. His fully acted upon. I think Christ’s bleeding at every pore was a mortal response. Moreover, he experienced the suffering associated with our sins which once completed he did not need to do again, but I still think he suffers for our sins even now. Moreover, I have a hard time accepting that the enoch story is merely projection because of what else I accept about God’s person and about what I believe that narrative tries to show us about God. but i could be wrong.

  36. I really wish God did care, i really do, a God who intercedes on trivial matters, like steadying the ark, using gods name to teach false doctrine, but fails to intercede when people to use his name to molest children, should asking for help really be the primes for assistance.

    it is evident that God won’t do anything the suffering in this world, so if there is any meaning to suffering it that we need to do what we can to alleviate it.

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