I believe in God because suffering exists.
Not to say that suffering causes God’s existence, but rather that the existent reality of suffering provides a “proof”, an indication, that God IS.
That may sound strange and completely contradictory to many.
How could both God and suffering exist?
In fact, in all the personal research I’ve been doing about atheism and why people don’t believe in God – the presence of suffering is one of the most common reasons cited for His non-existence.
I can see why many come to this conclusion.
If God exists, why does He allow suffering?
After all, if God existed, surely He wouldn’t let us suffer, right?
To me, this indicates they (unbelievers) want to believe in God. But, in their thinking, because they cannot reconcile that both God and suffering can exist simultaneously, and since it is painfully clear that suffering does indeed exist, the logical conclusion, for them, is that God cannot exist.
Or maybe at one point, in the beginning of it all, they believe He did exist, but then He decided to disappear. Or, He still exists, but remains but a spectator, watching with indifference to our pleas for relief. Or, maybe He exists and is actually pulling the strings and purposefully making us all suffer. (How cruel would that be!)
I can see how people might come to those conclusions, especially if they are in the deepest depths of suffering.
But, for me, the existence of suffering does not disprove God’s existence.
The existence of suffering proves God does exist – always has, always will.
The hard part is explaining why I believe this. It would be easier to say, it just does, ok?
But I’ll try and elaborate, knowing any explanation I could give could never come even close to explaining this great mystery.
The truth is I’ve been thinking about this question for a looooong time. The question about suffering seems to be the question of life.
It’s what all the great books and movies are about. It’s what sells newspapers and turns heads. Without suffering, we would hardly notice each other…except if we wanted to either mate or eat each other. (Or both in some cases.)
Suffering has been a part of human life since the very beginning of human history. Well, to be precise, the first humans may not have suffered right away – at least that’s what we can gather from the Biblical account of the Genesis story. So we don’t know when exactly suffering entered into human life, but we know it entered at some point in the lives of those first humans.
But what is suffering? And why does it affect us so deeply?
When I think of suffering – real, true, deep down throbbing suffering – I don’t think of pain. Although physical pain can lead to suffering, physical pain by itself is not suffering. It’s just a reaction – a signal – from the body that something has been damaged and needs attention.
Pain is the reason we immediately take our hand off a hot stove, why we stop running when stabbing pain shoots from your ankle all the way up our leg, why we call an ambulance at the first “pain” of a possible heart attack.
But pain isn’t suffering. It goes beyond that.
Suffering is when we allow those pains, discomforts, inconveniences, grievances, and tragedies to immobilize us. Stop us dead in our tracks, hold a death grip over our hearts, and render us completely and utterly incapable of living without letting those pains affect us.
But here’s my question,
Why would suffering matter, if there wasn’t a God?
Why do we care about pain and suffering so much?
Look at the animals? Have they built any hospitals? Do they go around advocating for animal rights for their fellow animals? Do they hold up signs and set up sit-ins against all the bigger animals out there killing all the smaller ones?
No, at least not that I know of. Why not?
They don’t care about suffering they way we do. They feel pain, they don’t like pain, they do what they can to avoid pain. But when they get hurt and experience pain – they don’t think any more about it. It is what it is. They don’t go around whining and complaining about it or accusing God of punishing them for attacking and eating that other animal they happened upon while hungry.
So why do we let all these pains bother us? Why does it matter so much to us when a child is abused, left to starve, or die abandoned in an overheated car?
Why do we care about all the people sick and dying from cancer and other life-threatening illnesses?
Why do our hearts ache when we think about war, rape, bullying, suicide, public shootings, terrorist attacks, and all the other disgusting atrocities that have taken place throughout human history?
The answer –
When we see someone in pain, we feel for them. We empathize and sympathize.
We feel pain for their pains. We feel sorrow for their sorrows. We feel grief for their griefs. We feel heartache for their heartaches. We feel compassion.
We don’t want others to go through suffering, because all we want for them is Happiness…Peace…LOVE.
It’s not just about survival, an instinctual need for the community to survive to guarantee our own survival.
If that were the case, we’d be no different than the other animals wandering around.
But we are different. We aren’t made to just survive.
We are made for Love.
But where does this Love come from?
Beyond us –
God is Love.
His sole purpose is to give love.
We are made in His image and likeness. In the same way that our human bodies share the same elements as the stars that came before us, so also we carry within us the same Love of the God who made us.
Because He gives Love, we seek and yearn to give love.
We love, because He loves; we exist because He exists first.
Suffering exists because we are not meant for suffering. If we didn’t have a desire for love – pain and suffering would not matter to us.
But they do.
Therefore – God exists.
I realize this explanation, and all the others in my I Believe series, are woefully inadequate. I’ll probably think of something better to say after I publish this. And there’s so much more I could write about suffering and all the why’s that go along. But I’ve been thinking about this too long and can’t wait for it to be “perfect” because it never will be. This is what it is for now.
I’m not a biblical scholar, a theologian, or a philosopher. I’m merely a simple woman who likes to look up into the sky and think about what exists beyond us now and in the past, and how we came to be where we are now.
I look at the world around me, observe people, hear and read the headlines and ponder. I ponder why and what it all means.
When I do, my heart aches. It aches because I see something in all of this that I cannot explain. I see a meaning, some sort of an answer or purpose to it all. I feel it, yet cannot grasp it. It is there, this something. And I think everyone else knows it, too. (Whether they admit it or not.) Everyone knows there is something…something frustratingly inexplicable yet also intriguingly real.
And I want it. I yearn for it. I seek it.
Perhaps, the only word for this something is Truth. And perhaps, this Truth is the same thing we call “God”.