Suffering

I remain convinced that it is irrational for anyone to believe in God unless they have experienced the touch of His love. We live in a world in which suffering of one form or another is the part of the natural order of things. If we live in a universe created by a god, then surely we have the right to hold that god to account for all this suffering. What point would their be in believing in such a god. How absurd to worship such a god.

Yet, having experienced the touch of God's love, how can I do other than believe in Him.

There is an argument that some things are impossible even for God. That if God could have created a world absent from suffering, He would have done so. The fact that suffering prevails implies that it was impossible, even for God, to create such a universe. I think that this argument is weak. It provides part of the answer, but not the whole answer. I think a universe without suffering would be unbearably bland, boring, monotonous. It would be like being condemned to live on a diet of unsalted porridge. It would be unreal.

I believe that God created a real universe in which stars and planets would form and life evolve. I believe that God chose to create such a universe because any alternative would be boringly pointless for its inhabitants.

For the first billion or so years of evolution on Earth, nothing much happened, just a gradual progress from chemical reactions to colonies of microbes. The next stage involved the first food chains as types of microbe evolved that derived their energy from eating other microbes. The end result is a planet with tens of millions of lifeforms mostly eating each other. What we have to understand is that the diversity and beauty of nature would be impossible without that hour by hour struggle to eat without being eaten. This is the driving force behind evolution and without it, we would not exist. Suffering and the efforts of all living creatures to avoid it are an integral part of evolution and hence of creation.

Creation is an ongoing process. Evolution is an ongoing process. God did not create (in the past tense): God is still in the process of creating the universe in which we live. God, I believe has chosen to create through evolution. The only thing that is certain is that our species as we know it will only be around for a few million years at most before it either becomes extinct or else has evolved into a new species.

It is my belief that all living creatures are in relationship with God and in that sense have faith. God loves the universe He has created and He loves each and every individual of every lifeform that has evolved. Since virtually all lifeforms are caught in the cycle of food chains in an eat and be eaten universe, God, I believe, underwrites the inherent suffering with love.

I am convinced that suffering has only become such an issue for humanity because we have slipped out of the natural order of relationship with God. We are unique in having evolved language and become able to handle abstract thoughts. Because I was capable of thinking for myself and arguing that a loving god would not allow suffering, I had argued myself out of relationship with God. Just as I recently argued myself out of relationship with God because I had toothache. I prayed for healing, but the toothache continued and before I knew what was happening, doubts were forming in mind and I was wallowing in my own misery. Contrast that with the account in the Bible of Paul and Silas in Philippi. Having been flogged and put, not just in prison, but in the inner prison with their feet in the stocks, they were praying and singing God's praises. Now why on earth would they be praising God. It makes no sense. Makes no sense unless one has experienced the touch of God's love carrying one through one's own suffering. Then it makes sense. The pain from the flogging and the discomfort of the stocks were no less, but the experience of God's love pulsating through veins was so much greater that their pain became insignificant in comparison. Fortunately my toothache yielded to antibiotics and vigorous oral hygiene, but even while it still raged I noticed that I had slipped out relationship with God and allowed myself to feel the touch of his love and forget the pain.

One of my friends had long ago argued herself out of relationship with God. Then one day, her 57 year old husband had a heart attack and died. As she returned home having seen her husband pronounced dead at the hospital some 45 minutes earlier, she was met by God's love and the reassurance that God himself would take care of her now. I know several others who have been carried through the grief of the loss of a partner by God's love. I am sure there are many other people I know who could testify to their experience of the touch of God's love, but in this age of such negativity towards God, they prefer to keep their secret to themselves.

The evidence is there. We live in a universe in which suffering is underwritten by God's love. This love is in some ways like the BBC World Service. It is there 24 hours a day and anyone, anywhere has only to switch on their radio and tune in. God does not stop loving us because we have tuned into another station, or turned the radio off, so to speak. If we argue ourselves out of relationship with God, we only break one side of the relationship. Even though we no longer feel it, God's love for us remains just as strong, just as intense. All we need to do is to ask for a little help in turning on and tuning in the radio of our heart.