“Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” --Job 5:7
Last Sunday, I wasn’t sure what to talk about in my Gospel Essentials Sunday School class. I wasn’t even sure where we’d left off in the manual. I hadn’t really prepared anything.
But there were some things that had been eating at me for a few days.
I’d been reading on the net and on the blogs where a lot of people, looking at natural disasters like the tsunami, and the flooding in the states, and the oppression and wars in various parts of the world, were saying that it was evidence that there was no god.
“How could a just and loving god allow so much suffering and death in the world?”
And looking at the world from the point of view of a lot of religions, especially mainstream Christian sects, that could be a very confusing position. A god that created everything and that is all-powerful and all-controlling suddenly comes out looking like a bored little kid trying to stir up trouble in an ant colony he’s found. It’s hard to see why he’s playing with us like that.
But I’m grateful for the clarity of the teachings of the Church. Just because God CAN do anything, doesn’t mean he WILL. Just because he can stop a tsunami or halt an evil emperor doesn’t mean he will.
We started talking about things in the class and we came to some conclusions as we discussed. First of all, the notion of “death” is different to us than it is to God. To us, it’s a painful separation from loved ones as they leave us to go to the dark unknown, never to return. To God, it’s a welcoming home. To us, mortals here on earth, the work (and sometimes, the suffering) continues. To them, the departed, the struggle has ended. And if they died in defense of the truth, or simply in a life lived in truth, they are welcomed in Glory (Alma 14:11).
We also determined that there were a number of different kinds of suffering, and they kinda broke down into three broad categories:
ONE—Stuff Happens. Get over it.
We’re in a mortal, telestial existence here. It ain’t the Garden of Eden any more. There will be trouble, as Job said. I remember going through a crisis of faith when, after eight years of trying to have a child, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. After many months of asking “Why?”, I finally realized that there was no answer. There was no “why”. Stuff happens. And He helped me get over it.
TWO—Stuff is often cause by the freewill of people who make wrong choices. This can be as simple as the fact that I never took care of my teeth as a child, so now I have to deal with expensive dental work, or when the megalomania of a misguided nation’s leader causes the brutal murder of over 6,000,000 people. And often, God allows these natural consequences so that His judgments on the wicked are full. Remember, many of those that suffered and died are welcomed up in glory.
THREE—There are rare occasions in life when God intentionally puts certain challenges and struggles in our path. These are times when we need them to grow, or to be awakened to our languishing in point two, above. We all have our “lamanites” to scourge us to a remembrance of our God. (1 Ne 24:23-24)
All too often, we misinterpret the events in the world as falling into category three, when I feel that in reality they more likely fall into categories one and two. That we are quick to lay the blame at God’s throne, when He’s really up there, shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Who, Me?”
But in all three cases, He’s very quick to hear the prayers of those that need Him and are willing to listen to His advice.
So we can get over it.