Atheists commonly ask why bad things happen if we were created by God. If God is all good, shouldn’t we exist in Paradise right now, never encountering suffering for even a moment? This barbarian argument shows a lack of understanding of God’s will and His plan of salvation for all of mankind.
Unfortunately, we have inherited a fallen world from Adam and Eve, who went against God’s commandments and were expelled from the first human Paradise, the Garden of Eden. Because of their sin, we were not born in Paradise or get to experience anything resembling Paradise and direct communion with God in this life. In case you are thinking that it’s not fair we have to inherit a fallen world from the sins of our ancestors, is it also fair that you inherit intelligence, health, physical vigor, and other gifts from your parents? Is it fair that the God-man Jesus Christ had to suffer excruciating pain to remit your sins while all you have to do is follow Him? Inheritance works both ways, and we should not grumble that we live in a fallen world when we would have certainly committed the same sin as Adam and Eve.
God has given us freedom and refuses to impinge on that freedom. He does not want slaves, and will not force you to accept his commandments or the Gospel. You have the free will to choose the course of your human life and ultimately the eternal state of your soul. This is the same choice He gave to the angels. Many decided to not serve God because of their pride, and they became demons, who spite God by attempting to corrupt and tempt human beings that were made in the likeness of God. God is like a father who allows his grown-up son to choose his path in life, even if that path will lead to disaster. The father will certainly warn his son about the danger of the wrong path, but he will not shackle and force him to serve his will. This is why it’s commonly stated that those who will reside in hell made the choice for hell through all the choices and actions they made in life.
Because we were born in a fallen state, prone to committing sin, and because we abuse our freedom in order to commit evil, no doubt aided by whisperings from the demons, God allows bad things to happen to us to cure our spiritual sickness. Bad events in our life, whether poverty, heartache, or bodily ailments, are the bitter doses of medicine that—at least for a moment—detaches us from the world to make us think of the meaning of our lives, and how without a personal God, life is pointless and all is vanity of vanities. God allows bad things to happen to us, if not horrible things, because He loves us and wants us to be saved, because He is all-love, and if bad things never happened to us, we would become firmly fixated onto things of this world and thereby lose our souls for all eternity. Difficult trials are the violent shake one gives to a sleeping laborer—“Wake up, lazy servant!” It’s not pleasant to wake up in such a way, but otherwise we would not wake up.
Oftentimes we do not lead a careful life and we take a wrong turn. God then puts up a barrier to stop our downhill slide. The barricade He raises may be extremely harsh, severe, and bitter. Man usually objects to the affliction and misfortune; however, like a wise physician, God uses these means to cure evil. Countless people attribute their return to God to a certain distressing adversity in their life. —The Art of Salvation by Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Temptations, hardships, and sorrows that rise against us (either from the devil, from others, or from the world we carry within us) are medicines. They are all sent and given by God’s providence to us, in order for us to regain the lost health of our soul. The health of the soul and heart consists of dispassion, holiness, and true well-being, which will extend into the next life as well. —Ibid
I know a woman who is far from God. A year ago, she came down with a flu-like illness. While bedridden, she spoke of prayer and uttered the word “God” way more often than before. It seemed that the illness was acting as a bridge for her to enter the Church and begin spiritual life, but once her body healed, she forgot about God and went back to her previous ways. I would expect—and maybe even hope—that God sends her a bigger trial so that she repents and keeps her heart on God for the rest of her earthly life.
I know a man who is close to God. His lifelong dream was to become an architect. He wanted to design buildings that would bring happiness to those who could enjoy his work. That dream was put in jeopardy when the coronavirus vaccine mandates hit the corporate world for much of last year. Because he is against abortion and vaccines that use fetal cells, it looks like he will eventually be squeezed out of a profession that was his goal since he was a child. He’s not murmuring against God or cursing his fate. Instead, his faith in God grows even stronger, because he realizes that any career in this life is only temporary, and that the only dream worth having is to rest eternally with the Lord.
After January 1941, hundreds if not thousands of young men were arrested and convicted [by Romanian communists] for [contrived reasons]. Driven by earnest aspirations, idealistic but a bit confused, open toward spirituality but without a solid spiritual foundation, they matured through suffering and were spiritually purified in prison. —The Saint Of The Prisons by Monk Moise
If a person can easily find out how much weight oxen or other chattel can bear, then how much more does the endless wisdom of God know about the limits of suffering of each individual soul? A potter knows how long he has to keep his clay vessels in the fire. If he keeps them there too long, they burn up, but if he removes them early, they will be weak and useless for daily tasks. How much more, then, does God know how strong the fire of temptations should be for the spiritual vessel of God—the Christian—in order for him to become capable of inheriting the kingdom of heaven. —The Field by Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov
My life is easy right now. I’m not going through major health problems or worldly trials, and for that reason I’m concerned. I’m getting too comfortable reading books underneath my wool blanket and baking various cakes that satisfy my sweet tooth. I know I’m only one or two temptations away from once again becoming a son of the world. I’m not confident enough to ask God for a difficult trial, but I know He loves me, and He will give me one that I need when I need it. The way the world is going, we will all face trials that—had we been forewarned—we would have immediately fallen into despair because of the difficulty, beyond anything that we experienced in our past, but God will send them to us when we’re ready because we need them to be saved. Otherwise, we’d fall into the trap of becoming addicted to secular comfort and carnal pleasure.
I don’t want to experience difficulties because my fallen flesh is weak, but I must face them just like our Lord Jesus Christ faced them when He was on this earth. He is the template, the role model, the master who shows us what it takes to be rewarded after this life with the Eternal Kingdom, and so I eagerly await the hard times, because I know it’s the medicine that my sick soul needs. May the Lord God heal us all with the most painful of trials that He knows we can overcome in order for our souls to be saved.
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