Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Insoluble Problem of Evil

There's a famous book in the Bible about a character named Job who endures undeserved round after round of terrible pain and suffering. I have a dear friend like that. She's a wonderful human being who is nevertheless afflicted with lupus, diabetes, myasthenia gravis, unrelenting and disabling back and neck pain, partial paralysis of her arms, and a practically endless litany of associated and painful disorders and debilitations. Not only does she have to endure excruciating and frequently life-threatening flare-ups of these various conditions, but it also seems that most of her family is cursed in one way or another.

Her 35-year-old daughter is a mother-of-two who has lupus and diabetes and a failed marriage to a depressed alcoholic. Her 40-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with an unusually early-onset case of advanced osteoporosis. And now her husband is clinging to life in the intensive care ward following gall bladder surgery, and his doctor, when pressed for the truth, admits that his prognosis is not too rosy.

All of these people are among the most decent human beings you could ever want to know, and yet they suffer misfortunes and miseries no one should have to suffer, much less people like them. Why? Where is the rhyme and reason in it? Shakespeare wrote that life is a "tale told by an idiot." But sometimes it seems that life is more like a tale told by a sadistic demon bent on rewarding the wicked and punishing the righteous. Where is God in all of this? Where is justice? What are we to think and feel, and how are we to live in such a world as this?

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