DIVINE WILL PT. IV
Cross of Christ as ultimate response to the problem of evil.

 

       There is inconceivable "splendor of providential order" - prosperity can deprave a human heart and adversities can reform it, and "Even poisons, which are disastrous when improperly used, are turned into wholesome medicines by their proper application" (City of God, p. 453). The uncertainties serve as a route to find certainty. What is seemingly adverse and contrary to one's best interests is in fact a doorway to one's greatest interests - the apparent adverseness being planned for one's prosperity which is indestructible - remaining invariably and potentially redemptive: "God sometimes shows us on earth what has to be suffered by the souls in hell, and leaves us, for a time, to become the prisoners of our own tremendous emptiness without Him, and we find ourselves apparently without power to escape by means of a single unselfish act" (A Thomas Merton Reader, p. 317).

       The Cross of Christ is God's ultimate response to the problem of evil, since the Cross seems to be the clearest indication of total failure of justice, whereby human beings' judicious expectations were distinctly opposed by God who allowed the inflicting of the greatest injustice and injury upon His Only Beloved Son. "And when we won't come to Him, He comes to us," Stump reaffirms "not to rule and command, but to be despised and rejected, to bear our grief and sorrows, to be stricken for our sake, so that we might be healed by His sufferings" (God and the Philosophers, p. 241). If God-Christ Himself was hurt by evil more than anyone else in history, then should we not trust God with what we are unable to fully comprehend?  Christ has made suffering the firmest basis of the definitive good, namely the good of eternal salvation.

       Saint Damascene explains that, "God occasionally allows something which is absurd and preposterous to be done, in order that by means of the action which has the appearance of absurdity something great and wonderful may be effected; just as by the Cross He procured the salvation of men" (op.cit., Heliotropium, p. 132). God also revealed to Saint Catherine of Siena that: "Sometimes I let the whole world be against the just, and in the end they die a death that leaves worldly people stunned in wonder" (op.cit., Enduring Grace, p. 124). Countless lives of saints and spiritual leaders are clearly affirmative of this pattern, and their deaths in particular cannot be described as blissful endings... as free from painful tribulations.

       Job is the first tragic hero who discovered the ludicrous (and nonetheless imperative) meaning of suffering. The Book of Job contains considerations about the morality of absurd, through which the explanations are provided that without God, the absurd would not exist, and without absurd, purity of knowledge is lost, for logos is accessible to human understanding only through absurd. Sound rational argumentations culminating in knowing the highest truth are possible only when in existence are those events which compel one to ascertain that human beings exist in a totally meaningless and irrational world. Evil cannot be comprehended apart from what is heaven-sent; what is spiritually most advantageous or apart from the intimacy with God. As Tournier writes, "...it is clearly the inexorable drama of our existence which oppresses us, the fact that evil is inseparable from good. Faithfulness without temptation to infidelity is not true faithfulness. Faith without temptation of doubt is not true faith. Purity without temptation to impurity is not true purity" (Guilt and Grace, p. 45). Being entirely guiltless, Job resists the idea that suffering is always associated with chastisement for transgressions and crimes. His suffering is an example of unjustifiable suffering - his suffering needs to be regarded therefore as something that baffles or eludes human understanding. Human suffering has meaning as punishment only when it is identified with imperfections and misdeeds - not all sufferings are brought about through transgressions, and hence represent a form of punishment. Yet, it is the most serious and tragic error to equate the formidable act of divine permission with the nonexistence of God, that is, to take God's apparent silence (while enduring afflictive events) as evidence for the nonexistence of God. God's nonintervention is nevertheless illusory and cannot be viewed as anything else but His thorough activity, as God cannot act against His essence. He is constantly active and perfectly acting, attending to all affairs regardless of human perception - regardless of human cooperative efforts or noncooperation. What is often judged as His noninvolvement is experienced as such due to human impious conduct: "That which makes a man despair is not misfortune, but it is that he lacks the eternal. Despair consists in not having undergone the transformation of the eternal through the duty's 'you shall'" (Kierkegaard, Works of Love, p. 55). Persistence in prayer can mean however that God's promises are taken earnestly; it increases vigilance and confident anticipation since a genuine prayer (when faith, hope and love prevail) cannot be allied with passivity or dismay. As a commendable medium to stay watchful and observant, praying becomes also essential in releasing needless tension, and since authenticity of prayer is invariably linked with illimitability of hope, even God's illusory passiveness is rightfully perceived as the most eloquent and inspiring answer. God's apparent silence is a way to ensure that we not submit too eagerly into fatalistic withdrawal; it is a way to verify how faithful His followers in reality are; to simply ascertain whether the Son of man when He returns will find faith on earth. 

       That which is tragic and adverse whether it be the death of a loved one, losing possessions in some cataclysmic event, or being fired from a propitious job position, should provide the incentives to consider how much what was lost was loved or valued. For can human protests mean anything else than human mistrustfulness in divine justice and love? Are they not exhibitive of the nonobservance of the most important divine precept? Children, who had been rightfully accepted as God's gifts, and have been prepared suitably to live in harmony with their Maker, will not be grieved unsuitably after they are gone; "Never speak of having lost anything; but of having restored it. Has your little child died? He is only given back" (Heliotropium, p. 83). Can God show unconcernedness if greater attention is given to our loved ones, our health, possessions, careers or anything else but Him? In Jesus' words: "Every movement of your heart is known to Me. Known my daughter, that one glance of yours directed at someone else would wound me more than many sins committed by another person" (Divine Mercy in My Soul, p. 248). Loving everything in accordance with the created order would lead neither to grievances nor unduly grieving. God under no condition can be solely a means to an end! The greatest gifts can never become more significant than the Giver! As Merold Westphal reaffirms: "Faith in the unchangeableness of God does not entail the unchangeableness of faith itself, for faith is not so much my holding on to God as it is my willingness to let God hold on to me. Such faith includes the trust that in this process one's relation to God will be deepened rather than destroyed..." (God and the Philosophers, p. 221). Possessing absolute trust in God is identical with remaining firmly assured of God's grace without needing temporal and visible evidences of that grace. For this reason, Kierkegaard stated that: "It is really beautiful... that God does not want to appear to me in visible things," concluding "I could not wish to remain a child who demands demonstrations, signs, and wondrous acts every day. If I went on being a child, I could not love with all my strength and with my whole soul" (Eighteen Uplifting Discourses, p. 26). Not having complete trust in God rules out the proper fulfillment of His will; it means that our subjection to His will is not perfect and hence cannot be meritorious in His sight: "The different ways in which God, acting in history, cares for the world and for mankind are not mutually exclusive; on the contrary, they support each other and intersect. They have their origin and goal in the eternal, wise and loving counsel whereby God predestines men and women 'to be conformed to the image of his Son' (Rom 8:29). God's plan poses no threat to man's genuine freedom; on the contrary, the acceptance of God's plan is the only way to affirm that freedom" (The Splendor of Truth). Blessed are therefore those who utterly trust God for: "No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded" (Ecclus. 2:2), and "Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him; and He shall be my Savior" (Job, 13:15-16). Trust completely in God, yet make preparations as sailors do for the voyage, Drexelius recommends, but "wait for the wind from God, so if you do not fail in your duty, God will take care of the rest" (Heliotropium, p. 298). He identifies the following main rewards in trusting God: the first privilege of trust in God is not to deceive; the second pertains to tranquility of life; the third - is obtaining strength in adversity; the fourth - is freedom from many sins; and the fifth pertains to becoming more omnipotent for "If Thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:22).

Christian Works by Dorothy Kardas, Psy.D. Th.D. 

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