The question of why there is pain in this world has challenged people of all walks forever. Why did an omnipotent God make a Universe with disease and death in it? Why does a loving God allow pain to happen? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Suffering and pain challenges the faith of many people, in fact it is the reason that many completely reject the traditional view of God. Yet, curiously, there are stories of those for whom hardship brought them a sense of perspective and ultimately to a point in believing in a Deity.
I have just finished an excellent book on the subject written by a Rabbi last century. It was written from his own personal experience on the matter having raised a son with a terminal disease. He wrote about the common responses to pain, our own and others’. He wrote about the role of pain in protecting us from physical harm. He outlined how we are created with free will, and that free will can then be used to harm myself or others. He discussed random acts of nature or chance and outlined why God cannot reach down and intervene.
In the end, after much discourse, he concluded that we should not ask “why?” but rather “how do I respond?”. It was a well reasoned account and based on heartfelt emotions and it contributed some good thoughts on pain and suffering but of course, the response I make has to be my own.
Then there are other faith walks that have theologies about pain and suffering, ranging from sin as the cause of all evil, through to the role of pain in focusing our thoughts on a higher purpose or perhaps to rewards in the afterlife. Other faith systems maintain that all of the physical world is an illusion and secondary to the spiritual world and so our pain can be transcended by meditation and the pursuit of the spiritual.
In our modern world where we have found the way to alleviate, or at least dull, many forms of physical pain, it seems that emotional pain is ever-present. Is this because we are taunted by images of happiness and well-being through advertising and yet they seem elusive to most.
Perhaps of all the questions that I have asked here, this one impacts the most because it has to be faced by everyone at some point in their lives. And the fact that it is still a question and not an answer means that we all have to address it ourselves.