I want to start
this page out with a little video, a very brief one. In it, two
beautiful little kids are eating ice cream cones -- and one drops his:
Adults watching this might find it sort of cute in its way. Even the
boy's mother -- who, I imagine, is generally a fine mother --
her son's reaction. I certainly wish she hadn't, though; stop and truly
look at this
beautiful little boy's
Compare his face to the face of the satyr Marsyas, depicted below by
Balthasar Permoser, in a pose that shows him as he's being flayed alive
Apollo. Compare the boy's face to that of Bernini's statue of Persephone as
she was being abducted by Hades:
That child is
feeling anguish. He is experiencing very real emotional pain.
Our emotions are good in themselves, and even Lord Christ, the very
of the Sun, and Moon, and Stars is an emotional Being. He wept when
Lazarus died, He was very angry when He saw how the Pharisees were
treating His Father's house, etc. But we have to use our intellect and will to order our
passions and to see things in perspective, and it's that matter of
perspective that is so crucial to our being able to deal effectively
with -- and, sometimes, for the sensitive, to even literally
survive -- the evils we're subject to as creatures who live in a
To that child, his having dropped his ice cream cone may well feel like
ever. But we adults know that ice cream cones are easily replaced, or
that not being able to eat a cone one day really isn't the end of the
world. None of that makes that boy's pain any less real and
heartbreaking, however. But, still, what "the big people" know is true.
The same issue of perspective applies to dealing with the grief we
experience as adults.
a loved one to bodily death, dealing with unrequited love, experiencing
loneliness, being subjected to human violence or to natural evils, such
as the pain of cancer or an abscessed tooth, or losing all of one's
material possessions in a tornado -- none of these things are
easy to deal with. Such things can feel excruciating, unbearable! But
have to remember two things...
1. God Never
Positively Wills Evil
The evils we endure are never
positively willed by God. He created the
world without human death and suffering in it; those came after the
They're a result of sin -- not necessarily one's own personal sin
(though our own choices often cause us -- and others -- great
suffering), but original sin. The
prevalent in some Protestant sects that one gets what one deserves on earth is a lie. Satan is the
prince of this fallen world, and we may
well be living in the time in which he has been "unloosed from his
prison" so he can "seduce the nations" (Apocalypse 20). All one has to
do to see how wrong the "Prosperity Gospel" is is to look at who
controls our banking systems, our media, academia, and other channels
of culture -- and consider what they do with that power and wealth.
No, wealth isn't evidence that one is a good person; in fact, the
opposite is often, but not always, the case. Neither is sickness,
at least necessarily, due
to personal sin.
And we definitely don't have to "plant seeds" by sending money to some
so we can "reap" a "harvest" of material wealth or physical health some
time down the road. That "Prosperity Gospel" nonsense is no Gospel at
all; it's demonic, a total
Christ's teachings, an inversion of the Beatitudes!
though, passively allow
evils to befall us
for His own inscrutable reasons. He may pull back
His mantle of protection so we might learn humility or gratitude or for
some other good purpose. But He never
positively wills evil. Not ever.
We can know this by reasoning from the facts of His innate
Goodness, His being Love itself, the impossibility of His contradicting
His Nature, etc., but we must also trust
this with our hearts.
2. God's Perspective
The evils we endure, no matter how painful, are almost nothing when
seen in light of eternity.
Our grieving over the evils that afflict us, including death, is
and good. But if we
don't properly order our passions, thereby allowing our grief to turn
despair, we are doing something wrong. We are failing to trust in God! We are failing to trust that what we're going
through -- no matter what it is, no matter how painful it may be -- is,
a sense, a mere "dropped ice cream cone" when seen
from the perspective of "the Ancient of Days."
Adults might look at the crying child in that video above and think,
"Awww, c'mon, kid, you just
It really isn't that big of a
deal! Get over it!" -- even as they feel love and
compassion for the child and would never will that such a "tragedy"
befall him. And it is the same with us and our "tragedies" and how the
Eternal One sees our lives from outside time and space.
He cares, very deeply, about
what happens to
you and how you feel! St. Luke's Gospel tells us how He cares even
about the life of
each and every
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them
is forgotten before God?
That bird your
cat kills and leaves as a gift on your doorstep is a bird you might
forget about in a month or two. But God remembers it. And He cares about it. And as much as He
cares about that little birdie, He cares about you so much
more! He loves you so much that He sent His only
begotten Son to die for you! But He also knows more than
you do. Just as a good parent cares deeply
feels with a child who drops his ice cream cone, but also knows much better than that child
real meaning and
level of importance of that dropped cone, so does God care
deeply about us while also knowing
the real meaning and level of importance
of the things that hurt us -- even the things that hurt us the most and
can feel literally unbearable. We have to trust this about Him! Sacred
Scripture tells us that we simply have no idea of the wonders He has in
store for His children!
...we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is
hidden, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory: Which none
of the princes of this world knew; for if they had known it, they would
never have crucified the Lord of glory.
But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither
hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared
for them that love Him.
St. Paul tells
us in Romans 8:18 that "the sufferings of this time are not worthy to
be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us."
To take this
analogy further, while we're crying about our dropped cones, God is
thinking, "Just trust Me!
Have a little patience! I've got not just any cone you want all ready
for you, but an entire Baskin-Robbins shop, one as big as twenty
filled with flavors you've never even imagined!
And My Son paid the price for it all, so it's free to you, a gift! And
don't think the end to your suffering isn't happening quickly enough;
think of how long a year feels to a 4-year old as compared to a 60-year
old, and then imagine how long your lifetime actually is in
light of eternity!"
We don't know now what He
has in store for us, but we will
if He deigns to save us --
something He will do if we
love Him and love others:
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is
perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I
thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of
a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to
face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.
Right now, we
understand and think as children relative to what we will understand
and think in Heaven when we see Him face to Face! And just as the
boy in that video will someday grow up
and likely laugh at his having dropped his ice cream cone and suffering
pain from it, one day we will look back at whatever is
our suffering now and we will know
better. It will all make perfect sense and be understood in light of
eternity. Right now, we are all like a bunch of children, crying and
real, natural, understandable pain over what amounts to, in light
of eternity -- a scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip melting on the ground.
There is no
alternative but for a loving God to passively allow evil
Imagine a child, beautiful, innocent, and so fragile. Contrast that
child with what you know goes on in the world -- murder, rape, torture,
etc., the intentional inflicting of suffering on to innocent creatures.
If you're a decent human being, you want to keep that child safe, you
want for him to be protected, to never have to face the evils the
fallen world offers. But what are your options? You could bubblewrap
the kid and put him in a rubber room filled with the things he loves so
he'll never, ever experience pain, will never fall and hurt himself,
will never have to struggle to attain or achieve anything. He wants
food, and it appears! He desires a toy, and there it is! He never has
to do things like practice piano or learn his multiplication tables
because they displease him. No one ever says anything or does anything
in his presence that'd bring a frown to his face. Every little thing he
desires, he receives. There is no pain, no
suffering, no waiting, and no work in this little guy's world, no.
...But then look forward 20 years and imagine the sort of adult he'll
out to be in the real world. He'll end up useless, helpless, broken,
impatient, unskilled, sick, obese, and unable to work or to think
clearly. He will be
spoiled. He will sense no
meaning to his existence (see "A Nice Place to Visit" from the first
season of the original "Twilight Zone" series for an easy-to-take
meditation on this concept1). And, worst of all, he will not have the capacity to love
because he won't understand the very meaning of the word "sacrifice,"
which necessarily involves giving up something dear to us -- i.e.,
which necessarily involves suffering to some degree. By denying that
child freedom, which necessarily entails the possibility of
failure and pain, you will end up destroying him.2
A poetic illustration of this idea: there's a concept in botany called
"thigmomorphogenesis" which is used to signify the effects of
movement on plants, one aspect of which is this: it's been shown that
trees raised in greenhouses may grow tall, but they are spindly and
weak; trees that have been buffeted about by the winds, though, grow
That is the answer to theodicy, the so-called "problem of evil." We are
free and able to love while having to endure evil (and having to work
to prevent ourselves from doing evil), or we are weak, broken
endure lives without meaning and love. Our very freedom -- our ability
to use our will to choose the Good, to truly love, and to become
virtuous people -- means we must
accept that a loving God allows us to choose evil, and passively allows us to sometimes be
the victims of evil. He never positively
wills evil, never wants
for us to have to endure evil any more than a loving parent wants his
child to have to ever suffer. But for there to be freedom and love, the
possibility and, given man's choices, the reality of evil must be
We must understand this! We must trust
in Him! We must trust
that God is, indeed, our Father
Who will never, ever forsake us (we
might forsake Him, but He will never forsake us).
If you are suffering, you must develop
of fortitude, and use your will to continue to do the
right things in spite of what the world throws at you. If you are
suffering due to human evil, you must learn to forgive if the evildoer
is repentant, and pray for those who remain your enemies. Offer up your
sufferings. Face your
emotions, dealing with them head-on, and ordering them so they're
directed to a good end. When doing that last, avoid the trap of
becoming too self-focused; focus outward as well as doing what you need to
do to understand and deal with your passions! Consider the problems
of others and serve others as you do whatever "emotional work" you
need to do in order to become psychologically healthy. Stay in a
state of grace, receiving the Sacraments. Take inspiration from the
lives of any Saints who've endured what you're going through now. Talk
to family and friends and allow them to help you. If you have no
maybe meet new ones at this site's discussion
forum. But whatever you do, trust
your Father, and know that, as St. Julian of Norwich wrote, "all
shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall
For a little musical inspiration about God's reassuring constancy
despite the chaos and suffering we endure, listen to Blind Willie
Johnson's old blues tune "God
Don't Never Change" (mp3).
See ALSO: St. Augustine on the
why bad things happen to good people.
1 You can listen to Twilight Zone's "A
Nice Place to Visit" in its radio show format through this MP3 file.
2 I stress numerous times at this site
that it is exceedingly dangerous to overprotect your children and to
mistake ignorance for innocence. Our Lady knew from even before Christ
was conceived that her Child would suffer, and that, therefore, she
would suffer. Recall, for ex., the events we recall at Candlemas -- the prophecy of
Simeon (Luke 2:34-35). But allowing a child to suffer, as painful as it
is for both parent and child, is what a good parent sometimes needs to
do. The modern West's overly feminized culture, its embrace of "safe
spaces" and victimhood mentalities, are precisely the things children don't need in order to grow to be
strong and virtuous..
3 Thigmomorphogenesis was described (by
fact, not by name) in the third century before Christ by Theophrastus
in his Historia Plantarum.