Theologians and philosophers have wrestled long with an odd problem. They, like many who suffer or who care for someone whose life is limited by a disease, wish to figure out how to make three accepted truths true at the same time.
They seek to explain the unexplainable. For me, at this point in my life, Theodicy has become a philosophical distraction. It’s like a Rubik’s cube for the theologically minded. Fun to attempt, but once solved it does nothing to make one’s life better. Nor would a solution take away the pain of life.
The three truths that cannot be simultaneously true are: 1) God is omnibenevolent or all good, 2) God is omnipotent or all powerful, 3) Bad things happen.
Most accept that God is all good and all powerful. And we all know well that bad things do happen.
“Life is hard,” we hear. John Wayne supposedly took the truth one phrase further saying, “Life is hard, especially if you’re stupid.”
We all make bad things happen for ourselves. But it also seems, more times than not, that bad things happen without cause.
Just as no one yet knows what causes an MS patient’s immune system to attack the myelin of the body’s own neurons and destroy nerve cells, no one knows either why other bad things happen.
Theodicy is a red herring, a philosophical distraction pulling attention from the real issue at hand. I can be, as Elvis said, “taking care of business,” or I can waste my time angry at an unsolvable problem which is best left to professional theologians.
This works for me: God is here. Recall your worst experiences. Think about them in terms of God’s location. Where was He? I can’t prove it (I think that’s why they call it faith), but I believe God was there.
When you’re angry because you’ve ripped the front tire off your wife’s wheelchair and, well, you were tired of pushing it in the August heat, anyway, so there … God is there. When you hear the diagnosis, God is there. When you’ve done all you can, given all the medicine and you feel helpless and useless because you can’t stop your loved one’s pain, God is there.
He is present when the worst things happen. Does He make the bad stuff stop? Usually, not. And while I’ve not decided what it is exactly that He does here or how He does it, I do believe there’s enough evidence in my own life to suggest that He really is here.
Like an optical illusion that cannot be resolved in the dark, questions of Theodicy really do not matter apart from the interest generated by the conundrum they provide. Solving the problem of Theodicy will not make life better or more bearable. But for me, knowing that God is present does.
Now, having stated my present thoughts about the problem presented by a good, powerful God and a world full of evil and disease, I’ll admit I’ve often been caught in efforts to resolve Theodicy, not as an intellectual puzzle, but because I needed to work on a solution so that I could better understand my own faith.
As they occurred, different circumstances in life have driven me to try to understand them. There have been times when my efforts to resolve Theodicy’s dilemma have absorbed my best efforts. I’ve dumped my anger and energy into trying to understand how evil can exist if God is good and powerful.
I was angry when my wife was first diagnosed with MS. “It’s not fair, God, she’s too good for this!” and “What right do You have, God …”, etc.
But like one who grows frustrated with a Rubik’s cube and sets it aside having grown weary of the struggle, I’ve quit trying to resolve the unsolvable. The effort there is pointless and wasted for me.
What does matter now and what I find to be helpful, is the notion that God is here in the middle of it all and not off watching us from afar. God is here.
In my darker periods, I’ve spent many evenings sitting outside beneath the stars wondering, “why doesn’t He do x or y?” “What does He do way out there beyond the edges of matter?” I found it very easy to see God as a confounder of life when I gave in to the temptation to focus on a resolution to the philosophical problems presented by a God who is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, while bad things happen.
But I’ve always been able to list many more good things that happen than bad. And I’ve learned it’s harder to be actively angry at a God who is near than one who is far away, doing nothing as He sits outside the universe watching us with an experimenter’s interest.
Occasionally, I’ll find a smile on my lips that sneaked up on me. It happens when I think to myself, “God is here.” Of course I frequently jump to the question that God’s immanence begs, “What’s He doing?”
Who knows? But relaxing in the thought of living in a gracious universe in the presence of a loving God is better than devoting time to solving the theological puzzle of Theodicy.
Caregiver Tip: Allow faith to be a source of strength.