The Problem of Pain

While walking through the deepest pits of human suffering with people, so often I hear the question “Why?” To face the reality of the presence of pain in our lives is one of the most difficult endeavors. A Google search to the question, “Why is there suffering in the world?” revealed answers by various religious organizations, including Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. The most common religious answers sound something like this:

  • God gives humans freedom of choice, and we choose against his prescribed way of living, thus creating pain and causing suffering in our own lives and the lives of others.
  • God is either not powerful enough to stop pain, He does not care to stop pain, or He is evil and revels in the pain that wreaks havoc in the world.
  • God allows pain because He plans to use it in His great Redemptive Plan for His creation.
  • God uses pain to discipline and instruct His children.
  • God uses pain as a “megaphone” to get our attention, or as a warning against further evil.
  • The Bible says that “suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.”
  • And finally, “Ultimately, we can’t know all the reasons God allows pain and suffering, we just know that He does.”

I do believe Scripture supports the majority of these explanations, but consider this: Continue reading

What is my aim?

Weeding. If there ever was an unending job, this is it. The weeds in my garden were thick. And plentiful. The truism states that the best way to root out weeds is, well, by the roots. Yet, the longer I worked, the hotter it became, the more tired my fingers grew, the prospect of just ripping off the green was tempting. “I can grab a whole handful and be done with this,” I thought. My work became sloppy, and my goal shifted from quality to being satisfied with surface-level appearances. Continue reading

When I want to be the elm…

I was reminded the other day about an elm tree that grew in my parents’ yard during my childhood. Though it wasn’t good for climbing, it was nonetheless impressive. This tree had two defining characteristics: 1) It grew. Elms typically are fast-growing trees, attaining stature in a relatively short period of time. 2) Because of its quick growth, it often would litter our yard with twigs and branches after a storm. (Needless to say, this frequently added to my chores in keeping the yard looking presentable.)

A number of years ago, my parents had to cut down this elm tree. It had been a beautiful tree, but simply wasn’t sustainable in its growth. Contrast this with the neighboring tree, an oak. Continue reading