Have you ever heard somebody say, “If God truly existed, he wouldn’t allow people to suffer”? Many times, this sentiment is expressed by those who have tasted of suffering in their life. Losing a loved one, living through extreme hardship, or experiencing severe disappointment has made them feel abandoned, or even punished. They have wondered, “WHY?”
They ask: Why do people suffer? What good does it do anyway? How can God allow it? Is he not merciful? If he truly loved us, wouldn’t he help?
They are desperate pleas. The sufferings we feel are sometimes so exquisite that we see nothing but the pain. And sometimes that pain makes us bitter. We even begin to think that our lot in life cannot be expressed in words, because surely, we are the only ones to have ever experienced such a tragedy.
From the New Testament, 1 Peter 4:12 — “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”
Every. Single. Person… WILL EXPERIENCE SUFFERING in this life. I have. You have. If we haven’t yet, we will. The types of suffering may be different. But we will all experience it.
Is there a reason for the suffering? Is it because God doesn’t love us? Is it because we are being punished? As human beings we need things to make sense. We need answers.
There has been a huge outcry recently about statements made by the TV Evangelist, Pat Robertson. He claimed on his show, The 700 Club, that the horrible earthquake in Haiti was because of a pact with the Devil, and is just one more example of a curse upon that land. Shepard Smith of Fox News called him out on it. I agree with Shepard.
Other folks looking for answers to the destruction have cited the extreme corruption in the Haitian government, reminding us that much of the aid in past days never made it to the citizens who needed it because of their greed.
Perhaps, then, we can say at least they deserved it? Certainly they were the wicked people who lost their lives in the earthquake. But what of the innocents who lost their lives? Are there survivors who suffer now through no fault of their own?
Let me take you somewhere else for a moment. Fast forward to events predicted by The Revelation of Saint John in the New Testament.
Revelation 8:18 “By these three was the third part of men killed…”
There are plenty of bible scholars who say that this means 1/3 of the entire population of earth. Calculated loosely, that is more than 2 billion souls. How big is the number 2 billion? That is 10,000 times more than the number of people who died in the horrible 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. More than 230,000 perished. With current totals and predictions by at least one news outlet, the death toll for the earthquake in Haiti could almost match it.
I am not trying to diminish the heart breaking tragedy of Haiti. Or the tsunami of 2004. I am trying to make a point about sheer numbers. Can you even imagine having a global disaster where 1/3 of the earth’s population is destroyed? It is terrible and frightening.
Tell me: What will be the state of mind for many people on the day in which that particular massive destruction takes place? Will God cease to exist for those who survive? Will there be those who will finally give up, saying, “God is dead, otherwise this would not have happened“?
Will all of those who die deserve it because they are counted among the wicked? What about the innocents? Will they all be spared?
I want to share my own personal belief with you on these matters. Whereas I am sure there were those who were in no way prepared to meet their God on Tuesday, January 12th, there were also many, many people who were blessed by that reunion. God loves His children. The poor who have struggled, the hungry, the oppressed–all have found rest in His arms. Even the most wicked men and women–those who were not following His commandments–experienced a taste of mercy by leaving this difficult existence, if nothing else by being prevented from sinning further.
As time goes on, there will be further tragedies. Both the wicked and the righteous will suffer in them. Why? Because God wants our hearts. He also wants us to be prepared for whatever may come. If we are obedient, and we love the Lord, does it really matter if we are called home to our Heavenly Father?
What matters is what we have become.
1 Peter 4:19 — Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
Let us become like Christ. Like Him, let us aid the poor. Let us love our fellowman. Let us also repent of all our uncleanness. Then let us worship our God, and never turn our back on him, even in those times when we don’t readily see His loving hand directing our lives.
And then, if we are taken, we will still find ourselves in the loving embrace of a Father who will say: “Welcome home. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
That is the type of homecoming which I look forward to. May I live in such a way that I will be counted among those worthy of such a heavenly reception.
If you would like to donate to a charity in which 100% of the funds are used for aid to the people of Haiti (not a cent is used for administration or proselyting), please consider donating to the LDS Church Humanitarian Relief Efforts fund.
Photo courtesy of Logan Abassi, posted on Wikipedia, (Creative Commons license)