Ask Father Paul
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have received in my ministry over the years and via email for this column.
Dear Father Paul: If God is kind and loving as you say, and can do anything he wants, as you also say, then why did he create a world with so much pain and suffering? — No Name.
Dear No Name: That question comes up a lot, from unbelievers and believers alike.
The answer is simple. God did not create a world of pain and suffering!
“Really? How’s that?” you ask, “we see pain and suffering all around us.”
Here’s the answer. The Bible says in Genesis, chapters 1 – 3 that God didn’t create a flawed world. He (first) created a perfect world with no disease, death, pain, bloodshed hunger, tears, sorrow or suffering ... a world with no need for pain. It was so perfect that God himself pronounced it “good” in Genesis 1:25. A little later, in Genesis 1:31, God called his creation, “very good.”
God then told the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, (I’m paraphrasing), “You are free to follow my rules and enjoy the perfect world I have made for you ... (in other words) you can do things my way, or you can choose to not follow my rules and do things your way. It’s your free choice.” But God warned Adam and Eve, “if you chose to go your way, everything will change. The world will no longer be perfect.”
We know that man and woman chose wrongly. It’s called sin. They chose their own way instead of God’s way, and they (we — all of us) are still choosing the same way today. Because of his wrong choice, mankind (then and today) now had to deal with things that God’s arch enemy, Satan, brought to the world ... things like accidents, disease, hunger, war, famine ... the list goes on and on.
Pain and suffering came with all these things ... the accidents, disease, war etc. But pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is physical, while suffering is mental. Pain is the sensation of hurting, while suffering is the consciousness and anticipation of pain.
We, all of us — believer and non-believer alike — yearn for the “old world,” the one without pain and suffering. But that world will not happen again until Christ returns and restores this flawed world to what it once was ... see Revelation 20 and 21.
Meanwhile, we all must (temporarily) live with pain and suffering which, while certainly not pleasant to endure, can, strange as it sounds, be, in a real way, beneficial to us.
“Pain can be beneficial?” you ask. Well, in a way, yes. Like everything else in life, it’s all in how you look at it. It’s in your attitude.
Consider this. What if you could accidentally lay your hand on a hot stove burner and not even notice it ... not feel it ... not have any pain at all. You got no warning that something was very, very wrong ... that something bad is happening and that if you don’t take action by moving your hand, now, you are going to experience serious and lasting injury? People with advanced diabetes, leprosy and nerve disorders are often like that. They feel no pain in fingers, toes and limbs. For lepers, a finger or toe can actually “fall off” and they wouldn’t even notice. Doctors Ralph Nesse and George Williams have remarked that, “People who cannot feel pain are nearly all dead by age thirty.” So can pain actually be a friend ... a “gift” from God ... to help us?
Well, maybe, maybe not ... but if we can begin to look at pain in this way, we might someday find ourselves saying, ”That painful lump on my back may well be a warning from God of a possible cancerous tumor ... a warning that something is seriously wrong ... that I need to see a doctor right away.” If we can begin to see pain in this way, we may begin to look at pain as something God has provided for our ultimate benefit to get our attention ... to make us move ... to make us take action ... something he provided even though we have rejected him. Pain and suffering are now “natural” in the “new” world which we have brought about, but pain and suffering will not always be with us ... and that’s good news.
Do you have a question? Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer you in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. Church of the Holy Cross is a Spirit-filled, Sacramental Congregation where Jesus is Lord. You are cordially invited to worship with us this coming Sunday. More information on the church, worship times, directions and pod-casts of Father Paul’s Sunday Messages are at www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com.