A black and white photo of a thin man lying on the pavement

The Reason Why We Suffer

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I am a panentheist and I believe that God is everywhere, and in everything.  God’s being permeates the entire cosmos, and even more than that, God is the active agent in all of existence – God is “doing” everything.  There is not a single atom in the entire universe that is separate from God.

If what I have said in the preceding paragraph is true, it means that God must be responsible for all human action.  After all, God is “doing” human action as well as everything else.  This means that God is in control of our emotions and actions.  We experience life through choices God makes for us to experience things in a certain way.

Admittedly, I am describing God as the cosmic ‘puppeteer’.  This is an unpopular idea among those who believe in free will, but nevertheless, I believe it is the way things really are.  There is so much evidence that we are not in control of ourselves.  I can raise my arm or nod my head; I can grow my nails or my hair; I can beat my heart and flow my blood – yet I have no idea how I do any of these things.  The reason I have no idea is because God is doing them.

On the whole, human beings seem to experience both the yin and yang of existence; the ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and miseries.  Why is this?  Why do we not live lives of pure happiness?  Why must we suffer?

I believe the answer to this problem lies in God’s own nature.  If the panentheistic view of the world that I believe in is correct, then really there is only one being in the universe, which is God.  God is eternally alone.  What must that be like?  I can imagine that there are two poles to God’s experience of being alone.  There is the bliss of having infinite power and infinite awareness, but there is also the misery and suffering of being always alone; of never having another being with whom to interact.

Perhaps the reason why God makes creatures is because there is such joy in interaction.  Making creatures that interact is as close as God Himself can get to interacting with other beings.  And perhaps the reason why God gives us negative emotions as well as positive emotions, and bad times as well as good times, is because this is an honest reflection of God’s own predicament.  God’s creatures each get a taste of the real thing; of what ultimate reality is like for God.

So we suffer because God suffers.  But I believe that God is ultimately merciful, and doesn’t want us to suffer too much.  God is deeply aware of how painful suffering is, and so He gives us enough suffering for us to taste what it is like, without ever letting it become unbearable for extended periods of time.  God could, if He so wished, inflict infinite enduring suffering upon each of us, but He chooses not to do so because He is loving and merciful.

When we suffer, God is not punishing us for right and wrong action.  That is illogical because God is in control of all action.  But God does want a varied and interesting universe in which His divine nature is expressed in all its complexity.  That is why He has made creatures, and that is why He chooses for us to suffer.

For more on the subject of God and suffering see this post entitled The Agony of God.

27 comments

  1. Not all evidence is opinion. Scientific theories and conclusions can be observed and the results reproduced. A camera takes a photograph, fact. In case you don’t believe it’s possible, I can show you and operate a camera to prove it. The science behind how the camera was created and how it operates it is right there in the camera for you to observe. Whereas, belief is a presumption – it is not based on any quantitative or observable model. I can justify my belief in the camera doing its intended purpose, you cannot justify your belief in God as it is only modelled on unobservable thoughts and unprovable declarations.

    Just saying everything is in the realm of opinion discredits your own belief system, for how can you “believe” in something – itself supposedly an expression of proposition of confidence in something’s existence – when you yourself admit that “future generations might consider it nonsense”?

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    1. James, I believe that where there is order in the universe (e.g. every camera works the same way) it is only because God chooses to reproduce certain effects on many occasions. God could choose for a camera not to work at any time if He so wished. Many things appear to be mechanical because God is able to create order.

      The reason I say everything is opinion is because everything comes from a person’s perspective. I don’t doubt that many people will see my ideas as nonsense, so I don’t know what your argument is really. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe many of my ideas are true. Incidentally, I’m not 100% sure that God does suffer, but I think it’s realistic to suggest that He does. I am very sure there is a God.

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      1. Don’t mean to be harsh, but your assumptions are completely malformed and childlike. There is no logic or reason to anything you write, and you cannot substantiate your beliefs with anything other than bizarre, meaningless statements.

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        1. Well, yes, you can just fire a load of insults at me if you like, but I don’t think that makes me the one being childlike…

          My statements aren’t meaningless, they are full of meaning. You just have a very different perspective so you can’t see their meaning. There is a God, and maybe one day you will get a revelation of that truth.

          You are always welcome here but try to be constructive, please.

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  2. James, you do come off as pretty confrontational. One of the difficulties of communicating through the internet is it is very hard to properly convey tone.
    “Your argument is so full of holes it’s laughable.” is the kind of statement that makes it look confrontational.

    You said that you don’t have any beliefs, I really doubt that is true. I imagine that what you meant is that you don’t have any supernatural beliefs or you don’t have any beliefs on faith or something. I am an atheist, I don’t believe in any gods, but I wouldn’t say I don’t have any beliefs, I believe in a lot of stuff.

    James, something you said jumped out at me.

    I am deeply aware that suffering can be terrible, but in the context of what suffering could be like (eternal agony) I believe God is merciful to everyone.

    Do you believe in hell? If so how do you square that with your idea that god doesn’t want us to suffer too much?

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    1. Hi Hausdorff. I think the last part of your comment, which you addressed to James, was meant for me, so I will reply. I don’t know whether God makes people suffer after death in what we might call hell, but I hope that He doesn’t! It appears to me that God chooses to be merciful. I don’t doubt that God could make people suffer in hell if He chose to.

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