[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his video gives a fairly clear answer to an age-old question: if God exists and he is all good and powerful, then why do people, especially the innocent, suffer? In his argument, Peter Kreeft basically says that the fact we even say “it’s not fair” is a proof that God exists, because it points to a pre-conceived notion of what justice is; one that we didn’t come up with, but have natural sense of.

Suffering is difficult to understand precisely because it isn’t fair – because it happens at random, to the good and the bad without discrimination. And when we say that this isn’t right, that it defies logic, we are pointing to a standard of what is good and what is just that all of us hold, but which isn’t limited to our personal opinions – it is a notion that was given to us, and we can know that God is good precisely because we know what good and bad, right and wrong are.

If there were nothing or no one that is goodness in itself, we would have no concept of what goodness is, or what of goes against that goodness.

Suffering is difficult to understand precisely because it isn’t fair – because it happens at random, to the good and the bad without discrimination. And when we say that this isn’t right, that it defies logic, we are pointing to a standard of what is good and what is just that all of us hold, but which isn’t limited to our personal opinions – it is a notion that was given to us, and we can know that God is good precisely because we know what good and bad, right and wrong are. If there were nothing or no one that is goodness in itself, we would have no concept of what goodness is, or what of goes against that goodness.

Suffering is difficult to understand precisely because it isn’t fair – because it happens at random, to the good and the bad without discrimination. And when we say that this isn’t right, that it defies logic, we are pointing to a standard of what is good and what is just that all of us hold, but which isn’t limited to our personal opinions – it is a notion that was given to us, and we can know that God is good precisely because we know what good and bad, right and wrong are. If there were nothing or no one that is goodness in itself, we would have no concept of what goodness is, or what of goes against that goodness.

Modern Examples

Two current examples of the evils Kreeft mentions, moral and natural, are the current war with ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the Ebola outbreak.

Although it is inconceivable to fathom that human beings can be so brutal to one another, or commit such violent acts in the name of religion, as Kreeft said in the video, God gave man free will, and in his free will man has the capacity to choose actions for God (good), or against him (evil). But God’s goodness exists outside of our own personal decisions and actions, and precisely because of that he can go beyond the evil done by man and bring hope: only one who is good can make beauty rise from ashes.

In the same way only God can go beyond the suffering brought about by an excruciating disease which has taken the lives of thousands, orphaned many, and left poor nations even further economically crushed by the weight of what it costs to both fight and recover from the outbreak. However, just because so many have died doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist or that he isn’t present with those who are suffering or with the families that have been crippled by the loss of loved ones, including their breadwinners. Although there are many who could say that if God exists he could have stopped the spread of the disease right away, however the rapid spread of Ebola has prompted a worldwide response of solidarity where the hand of God interceding to ease the pain of those affected and put a halt to the spread of the virus can easily be seen. Just as human beings can be an instrument of evil, we can also be an instrument of good, because we have been given an example of how to put or notion of goodness into action by Jesus Christ.

Jesus as the answer to our suffering

In his homily for the Veneration of the Cross on Holy Friday of this year, Pope Francis told Christians to spend the days leading up to Easter looking at the Crucifix and 

“kissing the wounds of Jesus, kissing the Crucifix (because) he has taken upon himself the whole of human suffering…Looking at Jesus in his passion, we see as in a mirror also the suffering of all humanity and find the divine answer to the mystery of evil, of suffering, of death… Many times we experience horror in the face of the evil and suffering that surrounds us, and we ask: why does God permit it?”

The Pope said that it’s “a deep wound for us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent!” however we find our answer in Jesus, who “takes all this evil, all this suffering, upon himself… Jesus permits that evil crosses the line with him, and takes it upon himself to conquer it…And when all seems lost, when there is no one left because they will strike ‘the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, it is then that God intervenes with the power of the resurrection.

Thinking Like an Apostle

An activity that can be done while using this video for catechesis is to have the students or participants try and come up with their own examples of moral and natural evils, and discuss how the presence of God can be seen in each. Another idea could be to ask if any of them have a personal experience they want to share of a moment of suffering when they felt God close to them. Leaders could also hand out scripture passages or quotes from popes or other Church Fathers on suffering to have the participants meditate on, and then discuss their reflections.