Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love him and forgive Him despite his limitations, as Job does, and as you once learned to forgive and love your parents event though they were not as wise, as strong, or as perfect as you needed them to be?
And if you can do these things, will you be able to recognize that the ability to forgive and the ability to love are the weapons God has given us to live fully, bravely, and meaningfully in this less-than perfect world?
This is the conclusion to Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s best selling book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. I got my copy of his book from a used book shop. I picked it up because of the title and the writer. Though I didn’t know that Kushner is a famous rabbi, I was more interested to find out what a rabbi thinks about the problem of evil.
The book is a good read. It explored the problem of evil based on the rabbi’s experience of losing his son to progeria, or rapid aging. The book is mostly a confession, and according to the rabbi, it is not a theological book. The book was not written for scholars, in fact I believe it’s the most accessible and honest book that I have read about the problem of evil. But I was surprised to find out that a rabbi, of all the people, would deny the omnipotence and omniscience of God so that he could live with the knowledge that his God is a loving God that his God is not a cruel God!
He is right to say that we do not need to defend God. But he is wrong because I think what he meant, by reading the book, by not defending God is to betray God. Tsk,tsk,tsk this is what happens when one goes to the other side of the problem of evil. I can not find comfort that we are living in an imperfect world made and governed by an imperfect God! I would rather find comfort in the fact that we live in a fallen world made and governed by a perfect God.
How do we explain suffering then?
It’s just the way it is, it’s because of the fallen nature of man—we are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world! I would not dare go to explaining and giving analogies but that’s just the way things are and I do not have to defend God in the same way that I have to emasculate Him so that I could find comfort in the fact that God has nothing to do with sufferings. I am more than willing to accept that God caused our suffering and that God is cruel because we will miss the point of redemption and salvation if there’s no suffering.
Suffering is a human concept. It is only an organism that has a concept of a deeper meaning of pleasure, not just animal pleasure that can experience suffering. Animals cannot suffer. They can be tortured, they can experience pain but do they suffer the way humans do. Animals kill their children yet do they show grief? For the animals, suffering and joy are the same. They are part of their instinct.
My point is there’s something in us that make us suffer. Its not pain but its how we deal with pain that make us suffer. Without faith in an all powerful God, our suffering will be unbearable. Job has said it very well, “God may kill me, but still I will trust him and offer my defense.”
God is not asking us to defend Him, God is not asking to defend ourselves, God is not asking us to defend our faith in Him, and God is not asking us to do anything at all but to have faith in Him that He is in control.
Suffering is something we have to live and deal with. To explain suffering and to rationalize it is something we cannot do, it is best to admit our frailty, it is best to admit our helplessness when faced with suffering.
Of course the Rabbi is Jew hence he do not believe in The Messiah, but the suffering of Jesus on the cross, for us Christian, is a proof that God knew our suffering.
But there’s one thing I agree with in the book. It is the need to forgive God. In our sufferings we must have the heart to forgive God, not because he has sinned against us for that is not possible, but we have to forgive God because even if we understood Him and have faith in Him, our suffering caused us to unknowingly and sometimes knowingly build resentments against Him.
Yes, I agree with the Rabbi that we need to forgive God, too. Not because of what he had done or not what he had done but because we need to accept Him as He is-God.