Thursday, October 14, 2021

Walking with God through pain and suffering and affliction in life.

                                 What it is like to walk with God through pain and suffering

Do we leave our faith behind us when all we seem to have in life is affliction and suffering?

I have not really faced a situation in life where just because I am surrounded by suffering and affliction in life, that I have been tempted to put aside my deep and sincere belief in God and the fundamental truth that I have been created by God to dwell in his love and mercy.  But through some good intentions of friends of mine, I have been given very enlightening books to help me deal with an atheists’ position where simply because life is generally hard and challenging, the urge to put aside one’s belief in a loving God is something that is real.  No, it’s not a temptation for me to deal with, but it’s good to read the dangers that are involved when this temptation seems a very logical thing to do.  

The whole problem of evil in life is broached by unbelievers in a very practical approach in the book Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by a leading pastor of a Presbyterian Church in New York City.  I must admit that on my own, I wouldn’t voluntarily pick up this book to purchase and read, especially when I am facing pain and suffering in life, which is what I am facing right now as I await the surgery for my skull replacement after the unfortunate accident on 24 May.  While I am encouraged by my physiotherapist doctors at the hospital to keep my body moving and active by walking and activating my limbs, I find my ability to do so very limited due to my body being assailed by upper respiratory tract infections.  The presence of COVID in the country has also caused the hospital doctors to discourage me from mixing physically with other human beings as I may be opening myself to its infection without even realising it.  In fact, it is because of the presence of COVID in the country that my surgery has been moved twice so far.  It was first supposed to take place in October, but because of the dangers of COVID, it was then moved into the first few days of November.  Last I heard was that the surgeons have discussed that it should be now moved to somewhere near 9 November.  When I hear about the new movement of the date for the surgery, I’ll admit that I was somewhat taken aback.  It does look like the much needed surgery keeps being pushed further and further away.  

Keller grasps the situation at hand by looking at the various arguments against God’s loving providence.  One of them is the evidential argument against God that says that evil and suffering simply make God’s existence improbable.  Skeptics are prone to say that “we can’t prove that there couldn’t be a God, or that there couldn’t be an sufficient reason for allowing evil.  But imagine watching a little child die by degrees - eaten from the outside by cancer.  Evil may not technically disprove the existence of a good and powerful God, it still makes his existence highly unlikely.”

This argument isn’t fundamentally different from what is called the logical argument, which rests on the same premises and has a similar Achilles heel.  If we are not able to prove that God has no morally sufficient reasons for evil, we are unable to assess the level of probability that he has such reasons.  Many people want to insist that we have vantage points from which to evaluate percentages for likelihood is to again forget our limitations of our knowledge.  God is infinite and we are finite.  It would be very difficult for a finite being to figure out the logic of the infinite.  One of the things that Keller says so forcefully is that only an omniscient mind could grasp the complexities of directing a world of free creatures toward provisioned goals, and that certainly many evils seem pointless and unnecessary for us, leaving us simply not in a position to judge.

Isn’t the biblical point that we finite beings are not meant to judge the ways of God?  This is so clearly taught in the letters by St Paul both to the Jews and to the Greeks as well.  But this is a strong temptation for human beings to do when their lives feature instances of suffering and affliction.  

I have not once in my facing of the afflictions and suffering in life doubted or questioned God’s existence and loving providence.  I try my best to write reflections based on my experiences, and I find that it is best to base my writings on my experiences of prayer and meditation.  

One of the most effective and relational dimension of prayer is when I start to pray the Flame of Love rosary.  According to the teachings, for every three Hail Marys one says, one can take 10 souls out of purgatory and into Heaven.  But extend this to 5 decades of the rosary with 53 Hail Marys adding the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for the pope’s intention, making it 54 Hail Marys or 180 souls going into heaven.  When we don’t just say this alone but join other members saying the same prayers, we each get the benefit f praying 36 triplets (54 Hail Marys).  Together with group we get 72 triples or 720 souls out of purgatory.  Imagine all this in a span of about 30 minutes of prayer.

Praying this routinely is to ba an active part of the Church Militant, which is something that I have always preached at Mass.  The problem is that there are too many Catholics who don’t apply themselves to be active members of the Church Militant.  Rather, there are many Catholics who are taking a very passive position in the Church, hardly fighting the daily struggles and temptations that afflict them in life.  

When a Catholic is so focused in the active part of fighting evil and sin, one doesn’t fall into a very passive state of the spiritual life.  With so much of the mind focused on prayer and for souls to attain their heavenly end, one hardly gives oneself the permission to be falling into the attitude that God is causing the afflictions and sufferings in life.  Instead of highlighting the negatives or counter arguments for God’s providence, we are maintaining our belief that God has not purposefully caused the pains and struggles in life.  We fight against technically disproving the existence of a personal God, and it makes little sense that things like these are justified in the way that we think.  Doing this is simply wrong.  What we can and should believe is that God doesn’t will such things to happen.  He can and does allow such things to happen in life.

My point of writing this reflection from such a vista is to encourage the many out there to not think about God in a way that causes him to work logically from your point of view.  Remember that God is the infinite and we are just finite.  It is not up to us to control the way God works, nor figure out why he does the things he does.  Each situation that we face in life give us very good reason to look to God in love and to be obedient disciples of Jesus.  

As I pray the day Flame of love rosary, I will offer up the prayers and intercessions for the many souls who are in need of God’s love and mercy.  If you, dear reader, are one of these persons, know that you are in my prayers as well.  Let us pray incessantly for one another as we slowly live out our lives of faith each day before our final judgement comes.

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