The problem of evil and suffering

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    I had turned toward Christianity somewhat but now was struck by brutal health problems. I was wondering how you integrate spiritual and God involving notions and abidance by faith with the brutal and unrelenting realities of evil deeds and the seeming relentlessness of illnesses be alling arbitrarily the most innocent . How do you square this with faith?


    Hi Kilian

    One of the questions all wisdom traditions ask, if not always directly, is how to respond to life as it is. The reality of LIFE is that it requires the sacrifice of life. That is is wonder and horror, its beauty and ugliness. Spring dies to Summer, Summer dies to Fall, Fall dies to Winter and Winter dies to Spring. There is a time for all things

    Jesus suggested that we follow him. Most teachings assume that that means following the rules and all will be well.  That Jesus becoming Christ through his death and resurrection died for our failings/sins so that we do not have to.  In my opinion I feel this misses the mark as such teachings tend to answer the question of how to respond to life as it it as a No. We broke Life (we broke what G_d created good) but can fix it by following the rules.  And we can fix it without having to ‘die’ . How many are hurt and lose there ‘faith’ when following the rules life still does not conform to their expectations.

    Life is not broken!

    Jesus clearly answers the question of how to respond to life as it is with a unequivocal YES and includes the cross. includes death. Psychologically/metaphorically every life transition, child to adult to senior involves a kind of death and reresection. One might argue that the reality of every breath we take involves birth, death and reresection. Every breath Christ’s breath, and on step further Love.

    No easy task. Our response to the question of how to respond to ‘life as it is’ creates so many more questions. Perhaps at the top of the list the problem of Good and Evil which is really the problem of opposites (duality).

    The knowledge of good and evil  is not the same thing as having knowledge of what is good and what is evil in the moment.   If we are honest with ourselves we often get it wrong. Note our first response to the knowledge of good and evil (the problem of opposites) is shame. Shame for being naked (our true selves) which we cover up with our various personas, projections and illusions.

    It is in the tension we experience when confronting what appear to be opposites that creates consciousness and often depends on the point of which we measure.  What is warm and good moment is measured as cold and bad in the next…. The cost of awareness of life and poor measurements/judgments, is the loss of the garden, even though we never left it. We just can’t see it, or face it, as it is.

    Does good and evil exist as opposites or are they so interconnected that one cannot be separated from the other?

    Gautama realizes his Buddhahood as he sits under the tree and is confronted with the wonder and horror of Life as it is. The Buddha response, pointing his finger and touching the ground. Good and Evil dissolve, Duality is a illusion, life is this present moment, Engage it as it is. Gautama response a resounding YES to life as it is, it wonder and its horror. (As in Christianly many mistake the answer as a No – a nullification of the self  turning to a negation of life).

    Life is the cycle of life and death and we desire to stop spinning and suffering. The irony being its the answer of No that keeps the cycle (suffering) spinning. Yes, life and death no longer opposites but intimately entangled within each other dissolve…,  The ‘All’, The void which contains all things, Love… words disappear. Life is in us and we are in Life.

    Point your finger and touch the ground, this moment, as it is, do we dare say Yes?  Laugh, cry, sing, shout… (avoid the trap of indifference which turn’s the Yes into a No. ) Yes a detachment from outcomes while being engaged in Life as it is. Eyes wide open.


    The word God is often mistaken for G_d. The finger that points to the moon mistaken for the moon. Words that should be transparent to the transcendent mistaken for what cannot be bounded by words. When you use the word God do you imagine a being or being itself?

    Fear is to courage as doubt is to faith. Doubt and faith not opposites but intimately entangled within each other. Some mistake faith with being certain, however there is a difference in being certain of what you think/believe and acting with a certainty while not knowing. Faith is exercised in times of uncertainty. Can you say Yes to uncertainty?

    We are all of us falling, and so falling let us fall to grace with grace.

    Why does the Buddha laugh?


    I apologize that the above is so abstract and likely unhelpful.

    I have spent so long saying no to life and trying to fix it. Trying to make life  conform to how I thought it should be. Following the rules in hope of a future reward… so never being in the moment. Judging, measuring and getting it wrong more often then not, Its exhausting.
    The challenge today is staying engaged with life and avoiding the trap of indifference. To say Yes, and lean on Yes even when I am uncertain.

    You may find the book, “Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life” by Philip Simmons, helpful.

    Philip found away to say Yes to life and engage it even as he was dying.

    Now I find myself in late August, with the nights cool and the crickets thick in the fields. Already the first blighted leaves glow scarlet on the red maples. It’s a season of fullness and sweet longings made sweeter now by the fact that I can’t be sure I’ll see this time of the year again…

    We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls. The fall from youthful ideals, the waning of physical strength, the failure of a cherished hope, the loss of our near and dear, the fall into injury or sickness, and late or soon, the fall to our certain ends. We have no choice but to fall, and little say as to the time or the means.

    Perhaps, however, we do have some say in the manner of our falling. That is, perhaps we have a say in matters of style. As kids we all played the game of leaping from a diving board or dock, and before hitting the water striking some outrageous or goofy pose: axe-murderer, Washington crossing the Delaware, rabid dog. Maybe it comes to no more than this. But I’d like to think that learning to fall is more than merely a matter of posing, more than an opportunity to play it for laughs. In fact, I would have it that in the way of our falling we have the opportunity to express our essential humanity…

    Here is where we go wrong. For at its deepest level’s life is not a problem, but a mystery. The distinction, which I borrow from the philosopher Gabriel Marcel, is fundamental: problems are to be solved, true mysteries are not. Personally, I wish I could have learned this lesson more easily—without, perhaps, having to give up my tennis game. But each of us finds his or her own way to mystery. At one time or another, each of us confronts an experience so powerful, bewildering, joyous, or terrifying that all our efforts to see it as a “problem” are futile. Each of us is brought to the cliff’s edge. At such moments we can either back away in bitterness or confusion, or leap forward into mystery. And what does mystery ask of us? Only that we be in its presence, that we fully, consciously, hand ourselves over. That is all, and that is everything. We can participate in mystery only by letting go of solutions. This letting go is the first lesson of falling, and the hardest….

    We are all—all of us—falling. We are all, now, this moment, in the midst of that descent, fallen from heights that may now seem only a dimly remembered dream, falling toward a depth we can only imagine, glimpsed beneath the water’s surface shimmer. And so let us pray that if we are falling from grace, dear G_d let us also fall with grace, to grace. If we are falling toward pain and weakness, let us also fall toward sweetness and strength. If we are falling toward death, let us also fall toward life.


    • This reply was modified 3 years, 4 months ago by Peter.

    Dear Kilian,

    I relate to your question and your desperation too. I am not a traditional Christian but I deeply believe in Jesus and have faith in God. My experience is that sometimes it’s us who contribute to our disease, and once the imbalance in our body & soul is healed, we’re healed from the disease too. But sometimes it feels it’s just unfair, be it an innocent child who gets severely sick, or an accident that leaves the person paralyzed, or even a chronic pain that limits us to enjoy life (such as in my case).

    I do keep my faith, talk to Jesus on a regular basis, but it’s hard. I still haven’t exhausted all options for healing (it’s my knee), I just need to be patient till the pandemic is over and I can go safely to doctors again. But the whole situation is very frustrating and I am not sure what the lesson is behind it, except to make me suffer. Job (from the Bible) suffered a lot, but never lost his faith, even after everything was taken away from him. So he would be a role model, but it’s hard…

    What is the nature of the disease and suffering that you’re facing, if you’d like to share a bit more?


    Hi TeaK – I am not a Christian. I was brought up Roman Catholic but after studying Theology and religion at university I turned to Buddhism. I struggled with the idea of ‘suffering’ is good for you in Christianity. Buddhism recognises that ‘life is suffering’ but it offers a self-compassionate way out of that suffering. It makes more sense to me.

    I believe in a holistic view of disease. Peace of mind is as important is looking after your physical health. I think any spiritual path should help to bring about that ‘Peace of mind’ which will have an effect on the body but I don’t necessarily believe that we bring all illness on ourselves.

    I have a chronic health condition which I believe is the result of my traumatic childhood plus a virus I contracted. I manage it the best I can but I would find it so much harder to live with if I thought it was some form of punishment. I now enjoy and really appreciate the simple things in my life. My illness has taught me that. Buddhism teaches us to accept life as it is, the good and the bad. Without the suffering, we wouldn’t appreciate the joy in life.

    Take care.


    * Dear Peter:

    Thank you for your recent kind words in regard to me on another thread. I hope that you are reading this post, I think that you will because the title of this thread is likely to attract your attention again.

    Reading the quote you added to your second post on this thread is very meaningful to me this very morning as I sit here, containing the terror I feel about global warming, following the most recent never-before-record high heat wave where I live, in the PNW :

    “We have all suffered, and will suffer, our own falls. The fall from youthful ideals, the waning of physical strength, the failure of a cherished hope, the loss of our near and dear, the fall into injury or sickness, and late or soon, the fall to our certain ends. We have no choice but to fall, and little say as to the time or the means”-

    –  Fearing global warming puts the fall from youthful ideals, the failure of cherished hope, and even my own individual death in a new-to-me perspective, as .. nothing much in comparison. I am worried that suffering from heat will increase, that more and more people will die because of the heat.. leading, in a few decades or so, to the most acute heat-related suffering for the still-living,  and to the great majority of people on earth being dead, only a few scattered settlements of people remaining, in the least hot areas, while most of the planet is a lifeless desert. I feel hopeless on the matter because people deny, politics is radicalized.. no end in sight to the slow death of life on earth, and I can’t reverse climate change by .. anything I personally do.

    Back to the quote: “Perhaps, however, we do have some say in the manner of our falling… In fact, I would have it that in the way of our falling we have the opportunity to express our essential humanity”- this speaks to me a lot.

    Can you tell me, Peter, what you think about global warming/ climate change.. about what to me is very clear, which I described right above.. any suggestions for me?


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