I Suffer, Therefore I Am

Thinking about human suffering is like trying to ride a bull. Most efforts are short-lived and you can wind up getting the faith kicked out of you.

I’ve wrestled with the anomaly of a good God and a bad world for most of my adult life. I’ve had insights that have caused me to reject certain explanations but I still come far short of understanding why things have to be the way they are. Ah, the limitations of a finite mind.

Years ago I put one view of the dilemma into my book, Jewel Heist (book four in the Matterhorn series). It’s a dream sequence in which Jewel, whose mother is dying of cancer, argues with the Maker about why he allows evil.

Here’s how the chapter begins.

Sea of Life

The old lookout tower had been built in the 1930s and abandoned a half-century later. The fourteen-foot-square room perched five stories off the ground and commanded a 360-degree view of the forest. Jewel’s father had piggybacked her to the top when she was only six years old. The panorama took her breath away; she swirled herself dizzy trying to take it all in. She was a Princess, her father told her solemnly, and from this tower she could survey her entire kingdom. The animals would be her royal court; the stately pines her loyal guard.

Ever since that first visit, the tower had been her special place, her safe haven. She came here to think or pray or just get away from people. Birds kept her company, perching on the half-walls and gossiping about the happenings below. Squirrels brought her the choicest nuts and berries in exchange for peanut M&Ms. Deer gathered at the bottom of the rickety ladder to be scratched behind the ears and fawned over.

Jewel sat on the floor in a rectangle of morning light near the antique wood stove. Etham, Alex, and Gerlac were distant memories. Part of her wanted to race home and check on her mom. The rest of her wanted to stay put and not know if this was the broken world she remembered or the “fixed” one Etham had promised.

Wrapped in her own thoughts, she only gradually became aware of someone else in the tower. Not a person with shape and size but a presence that filled the space without crowding her.

“You are troubled, Princess?”

“I’m confused,” she replied, not surprised by the presence or the question. “Etham says you have let things get out of hand. That’s why there is so much evil on Earth.”

I am responsible for the possibility of evil by allowing freedom.”

“We haven’t handled freedom very well,” Jewel said. “Maybe the nobles should be allowed to change things for the better.” After a pause she asked, “What’s wrong with letting them correct our mistakes?”

“You mean my mistakes?”

“Well, you could have kept tighter control.”

“The ability to choose is what gives you dignity. Character and creativity only blossom as the fruit of free will. If you want to see what tighter control looks like, glance below.”

(Read the rest of the chapter in the page Sea of Life.)


2 thoughts on “I Suffer, Therefore I Am

  1. On the nature of evil …

    Dorothy Sayers put the problem of evil in the proper perspective: “For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is – limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death – He had the honesty and the courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that He has not exacted from Himself. He has Himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair and death. When He was a man, He played the man. He was born in povery and died in disgrace and thought it well worth while” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? New York: Harcourt, Brace and Col, 1949, p.4).

  2. Thanks, Mike for all your insight into some of the toughest, inexplicable areas of life. Surely, at best, we see through a glass darkly. Keep pushing forward.


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