Maol Iosa – Diary (9)
For an explanation of the title and why we are publishing this diary, please see the first entry (27/3/13). Maol Iosa = servant or follower of Jesus. I should make clear that the 2012 entries were written last year on the day of the events described or on the day after. I continue with some philosophical ramblings on the question of suffering. Summary: Why is there apparently indiscriminate suffering? – the Christian perspective – suffering, an existential necessity? – the resurrection world – how humans affect the 1st (created) world – what if?

Servant of Jesus (9)
Saturday 7th July 2012

Today was a quiet day. A number of phone calls from relatives and friends. Margaret continues to be reassured by the radiographer’s report that the cancer is confined to the stomach. On Monday we may hear what the next step is going to be with regards to the operation.

I continue to meditate on the question of suffering. I have already spoken of suffering as an existential fact and of how people by their choices cause suffering. But there is also the suffering which arises just from how the world was created in the first place, the ‘first world’ which I mentioned earlier. This world is not made by man. It is not man’s fault that there are earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and floods, but whole populations are engulfed and destroyed by such. It is not man’s fault that there are parasites, bacteria and viruses which cause dreadful diseases. Yet these natural disasters and diseases affect – apparently indiscriminately – those who follow God and those who do not. Could a good God not have created a better world where the good were rewarded and the evil punished?

(Actually, Jesus didn’t promise his followers that they wouldn’t suffer. He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) And Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:33) This reminds us that this world cannot be seen in isolation. The Christian perspective is that there is a world after this one and we should always judge the suffering of this world in relation to what could be in the next.)

But if there were going be beings – people no less – with feelings, perhaps it was not possible for God to create a better world than the one we inhabit. (I speak from a human perspective.) We note from what science has discovered in the last century that there is incredible fine-tuning needed to create a universe which will have sentient beings. Again I say perhaps it is an existential necessity for there to be pain as well as joy. Perhaps there was no way to avoid earthquakes, viruses and all the rest, if there was going to be a world with beings who could have pleasure and laughter and yet who had to suffer and sometimes weep. The intuitive spiritual sense – if not reason – tells us it could have been no other way – at least in a universe such as this.

I say ‘in a universe such as this’ because the Bible speaks of another world: “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, or any scorching heat. For the lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7: 16-17) So according to the Bible this suffering world is just a prelude to another perfect world for those who believe in Jesus.

But there is another Biblical perspective to all this and it is that God made the world perfect in the beginning and that man was close to God but that man disobeyed God and was separated from him in the Fall. In other words, human suffering is the result of sin. This brings us back to the existential question: the fourth world of our choices and decisions which creates the often corrupt second world – the humanly created world of institutions and constructions of all kinds, concrete and abstract. The first world is good, as it says again and again in the first chapter of Genesis “And God saw that it was good.” But man makes corrupt use of the first world, the world of nature. We see this all around us in the destruction of the environment and the misuse of resources.

If love and care for others and for the environment ruled people’s lives instead of selfishness and greed and the pursuit of profit, would there be any suffering worth mentioning? I believe most of the suffering in this world would be no more.