A while ago my mother said to me in a given context: „Son, I want to ask you something: Does God not see what these people do? How can the earth bear them, being so evil?” Our conversation referred to someone who had influenced our lives in a negative way and who we knew that had hurt other people as well. He was a person who had been in a leadership position for a long time and became more and more relentless over time.
Two weeks ago I attended my grandfather’s funeral in the countryside and one of my uncles, who was suffering injustice by his younger brother, told me: ‘Claudiu, will you tell me, is this what the Bible says? That one should trample on his own brother and take away everything he has? Where is the justice here? Does God not see all this?’
I have also asked myself the same question many times and sometimes I would stumble and fall into despair. Is God asleep? Why does He allow for someone to hurt other people so badly, repeatedly, for years in a row? Why don’t they get punished? Why doesn’t anyone stand up to them?
Theoretically, I understand that people are free and that God gave them this freedom and they will receive payment for the choices they make. But still, the world is permanently and every second of the day watched, protected and led by God, and yet, it sometimes seems like He doesn’t intervene, although He could.
As I was reading Chapter 2 from the Epistle to the Romans today, I came across the following verses:
‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.’ (Romans 2,1)
Should we stop judging, should we close our eyes, is this the solution? No, it is not! This is not the answer to the question in the title, the following verse is:
‘But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.’ (Romans 2,2)
So, even if we are filled with indignation at the evil around us, we must be aware of two things:
There is one more very important thing. Let us imagine that I would be in God’s shoes starting tomorrow and that I would rule the world for a year. What would I do? I would be more trenchant against evil, I would presumably nip it in the bud…
Yet we forget that aggressive measures bring a temporary solution, but constraint does not turn evil into good, only love and forgiveness have the power to do that. In His ruling the world, God does not only use punishment and constraints, instead He uses plenty of mercifulness and forgiveness as well, tolerating and waiting for people to become aware of the evil at some point and for them to change.
If I were to rule the world instead of God starting tomorrow, I would surely not have such patience and understanding as He does with each and every man, knowing their every hidden thought in their hearts. Here is what Paul the Apostle says next:
‘Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?’ (Romans 2, 3)
This indignation of ours regarding evil people is also a consequence of our very weak power to forgive and to have patience towards those who hurt us.
Why does God tolerate those people who hurt others so badly? Because He has the power to do that, because He is void of passions and evil and nothing inside Him urges Him to cast revenge.
Our indignation also comes from our inability to do something in order to solve the problems. God sees the evil done by others and He does have the power to neutralize its effects and nothing stands in His way of arranging everything instantly. Yet His patience and forbearance have a very wise pedagogical purpose, beneficial for the entire humanity.
Our indignation regarding the fact that God doesn’t punish the evil ones is indirectly a disdain for the richness of His kindness, of His forbearance and great patience.
His Eminence Bartolomeu Anania said while commenting on this verse: ‘God’s goodness is not a divine weakness, but the chance given to man to improve himself.’
Here is what Paul the Apostle says next:
‘But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.’ (Romans 2,5)
And in case we fear that God doesn’t know what happens and does not repay, Paul says:
‘Who will repay each person according to what they have done: to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, but for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.’ (Romans 2, 6-8)
There is one thing we all should be aware of: those who do evil and don’t repent, will not only end up in the hell of eternal torment, but they also bear the consequences of sin in their hearts right after they commit it: ‘There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile’ (Romans 2, 9)
And those who do good will not only inherit the kingdom of heaven prepared for them ever since the creation of the world, but they also receive God’s grace in their soul immediately, which brings joy and peace: ‘but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.’ (Romans 2, 10)
And the conclusion of this speech is clear at the end:
‘For God does not show favoritism.’ (Romans 2, 11)
That is, God does not show favoritism to anyone, He is kind and just and desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
In order to better understand this topic, we can reread the parable with the man who planted the good seed in his garden but his enemy came that night and planted tares and the tares grew and started to choke the good seed.
Upon his workers’ proposal to pull out the tares, the master refuses, arguing that by doing that they might also pull out the good harvest. When He explains this parable, the Savior says that the good seed are the sons of the kingdom and the bad seed are the sons of the evil one.
Their cohabitation should be beneficial for both of them; the evil ones should follow the example of the good ones and repent, and the good ones should grow in virtue, being put to the test by their relationship with the evil ones.
Why does God tolerate the people who hurt others so badly?
Because He loves the evil ones and shows them love in order to make them repent for their mistakes.
Because He can give the good ones the power to overcome the suffering caused by the evil ones.
Because God can take the greatest evil and turn it into an even greater good.
Because God moves in a mysterious way which is difficult to understand and memorize by us.
Because only Christ has the power to love His enemies.
And we can do the same only through Him, through God’s grace which we receive as a gift.
Translated by Claudia
I”m so afraid of suffering. I”m afraid even of the most insignificant pain. To me, being cold is the most terrifying physical pain, to others is the toothache. Loneliness itself can be often felt as a physical pain, but whatever suffering would be like, it does not comfort anyone.
We are aware of the fact that if we want the Resurrection, we have to pass over the burden of carrying the Cross as the Lord Christ Himself did. But is this indispensable for everyone? Is there a way to reach salvation without suffering?
Father Seraphim Rose said:
”We, those who call ourselves Christians, have to wait nothing but being crucified. Cause, being a Christian means being crucified now and anyother time since Christ has come for the first time. (…)And our crucifixion must be exposed, so that anyone could see it, cause the Kingdom of Christ is not from this world, and neither the world nor even only one exponent of it can receive it, not even for a moment.”
I wonder what is the meaning of this crucifixion, nowadays?
The Holy Fathers say that suffering comes from the lack of pleasure. We suffer due to our permanent need of feeling pleasure and when this phenomenon is interrupted, for different reasons, here come pain and sadness after the moments in which we were accustomed to tasting the pleasure.
Even though I am arrogant and selfish, sometimes I try, with God’s help, to give more attention to others rather than to myself. If I have something that I want to share, I offer the biggest part to others and keep the smallest to myself. If due to the circumstances some people which belong to a group have to endure inconveniences and others don’t, I place myself into the first one. If I am refused, offended or removed, I simply accept this with calm and I try to withdraw without having any reaction. If one of my superiors act unjustly with me, then I put my head down and walk away without making any scandal. I always try not to trouble with my desires neither to impose myself, even if my authority would allow this ( as a father, husband, client, beneficiary or citizen).
This attitude, which I’ve learned from the Gospel, helped me many times in getting rid of suffering, because from the ethic point of view, I placed myself into a position knowing that I am going to suffer and getting ready for it. I was in peace with it and seemed that every time it happened I was more and more brave in facing it, asking for God’s help. Placing myself into a position that did not disturb anyone, on the contrary, it favoured them, I didn’t have any competition, being not afraid of an ulterior suffering but accepting the maximum of it as a consequence of my position in that group. This was giving me the peace of getting rid of the fear of: ”what if it‘s me who….” I was getting rid of the threatening of being cut throat and this gave me so much peace.
Psychologically speaking, I could say that this kind of attitude helps you to place yourself into the position in which you will get minimum of pleasure with minimum of frustrations… consequently also a minimum of suffering, if we think that suffering is actually the pain which is derived from the unfulfilled desires (needs).
If you first propose yourself in order to get the biggest benefits within a group, then, you place yourself into the position in which you will get the maximum of pleasure but also the maximum of frustrations coming from the fear that others won’t confirm your position and eventually you will get to benefit less or not at all.
If we pay some attention to what is happening all around us, we will notice that where there is a bone, there are also the dogs. The competition is where you can get benefits from. Where money are easily made and benefits come on short term, there is where most of the people are interested in. There, where is pain, suffering, hardworking, stress, long term benefits, there are a few or none interested in. A father from Mount Athos, being asked if he has peace and if he can pray, answered that: ”When you find yourself in poverty, nobody disturbs you”. If you don’t have anything valuable that could attract others, then you won’t be disturbed.
If through the attitude you have, you want money, a superior position, political advantages, if you have persuasion over masses, or if you are able to bring benefits to others, then you will surely have competition and people will pine for a piece of your cake. Putting yourself into such a position, you can easily get suffering instead of what you first desired.
Generally speaking mankind looks for what is palpable, material and here is where the fight begins, and it is normal that after this ”fighting”, those who are involved in it, go out wounded and suffering.
The less importance you give to the material, and more to the spiritual, the least interested you’ll be for the world and you will get less wounded, out of this fight.
In conclusion, we could say that we suffer because we pine for what is material, in our efforts to obtain it.
So, the Cross that all of us have to carry in order to get to the Resurrection, is nothing but leaving everything that is material, or, the continuing attempt and effort to obtain spiritual joys, that come from your relationship with God and the others.
Supposing that there is a way to salvation with a minimum of suffering, that way is life itself, lived without cherishing the material and always relate to Christ’s commandments.
If we want to save ourselves with no suffering, we have to put us into the last position for the benefit of others.
That is why I said if we are afraid of carrying our cross, we have to crucify our selfishness!
We can run away from suffering, transforming the Christ’s Cross into renunciation of all that is material.
In the Tradition of the Orthodox Church, actually the Cross is asceticism, the lack of passion, the fight of getting rid of the sin – as the only one responsible for suffering. The sin makes us selfish and puts us into the psychological position in which we expect maximum of pleasure.
Humbleness instead, puts the man into the position in which he wants nothing, being always satisfied with everything, not wanting to disturb anyone and whose only problem is with himself and never with the others, willing at any time to endure more difficult situations or a lack of pleasure.
Translated by Lăcrămioara Ticu
When I’ve read some while ago what Our Lord Christ said: ‘Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy’ (Mt. 5, 7), I haven’t understood very well what He meant. I was mainly thinking that those who would help the poor and would always be charitable would be shown mercy by God on Judgement Day, when they will enter the Heavenly Kingdom. Now I also understand something different besides this promise.
I understand that when I show mercy to someone poor and I help them, then God shows mercy to me as well and He helps me. I also understand that when I am generous to the wretched then God is also generous to me and He doesn’t punish me when I do wrong, instead He forgives me.
Just like I take pity on someone when I see them suffering and I help them, God takes pity on me when I do wrong and He doesn’t punish me. When I’ve been merciful to others, God did not delay in being merciful to me as well.
Some while ago I was thinking how great it would be to stop suffering, to stop having troubles and having a constantly happy life. It seems rather impossible, here on Earth. But I think that this is mostly possible.
Many times I was not punished by God, although I deserved it awfully. I haven’t received troubles from God although I should have. I have never suffered too deeply. I can’t say I’ve had troubles, but only sorrows. I’ve received so much from God and for that I’ve tried to help others the way I could and God has taken pity on me and hasn’t punished me too often, He hasn’t given me suffering, but He forgave me and made me realize that I’ve done wrong.
I think that those who don’t want to suffer must help others who are suffering. Whoever relieves someone’s suffering (hunger, thirst, etc.) will also be kept from suffering by God Who will always watch upon them.
‘Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.’ (Luke 6, 30-33)
Yes, God did make man capable of taking decisions by himself in any situation, but man’s freedom doesn’t restrain God’s freedom. If man makes some choices as he pleases, so that the consequences of these choices do harm to others, that doesn’t mean that God can’t intervene somehow and limit the effects of these choices. God has a salvation plan for the whole world, particularized for each and everyone of us.
This salvation plan is not something which predestines people’s behaviour towards some particular choices, on the contrary, it is a plan which fits closely and every moment to the choices we make. In order to better understand this, this plan is not written on a piece of paper, it’s not already established, but it’s a dynamic plan. It’s like an intelligent software which constantly adapts itself to the choices people make.
Some twenty-thirty years ago, a power plant which provided hot water and electricity was monitored by many people from a control panel with lots of buttons and clocks, which indicated variations of different parameter. (pressure, temperature etc) Everytime there was a breakdown or a small problem, the guys from the control panel noticed it and sent the caretakers to the plant. Here, these workers closed and opened some taps, to increase or decrease the quantity of water, steam and gas, so that the power plant can be restored. Today, however, all is automated; that big control panel with hundreds of buttons and clocks has been replaced by a computer with intelligent software. This soft was created so it can take decisions by itself in case there are problems, to adjust everything by itself, to open valves, to close them, to increase or decrease temperature, to provide more energy or less, always adapting itself to what is going on in the plant. Engineers now only look at the computer’s screen, without doing anything, the software programme makes decisions by itself, it can even shut down the entire power plant in case of serious damage!
God’s salvation plan works in the same way, with an intelligent software programme which makes decisions according to variation of external factors.
God intervenes in the world in every second and not even a hair can move without His will, so says our Savior in the Bible. Everything takes place under his eyes and the evil things some people do can’t stop God from doing as He pleases, on the contrary, He can turn the tables and create good from the evil.
In the New Testament, man and his passion are often discussed, as well as the way he has to manage the battle with himself, the way in which God intervenes in our personal life. In the Old Testament, however, God’s interventions in the life of people, external politics, in the relations between some armies and countries are often mentioned subjects.
We, today, in a secularized world think that population is in the hands of great powers or international interest groups, but we forget that Christ is always present at each transaction, at each negotiation, at each decision the rulers of the world take. He is never surprised, He takes decisions which limit the effects of some bad choices, thus confirming the salvation plan from the creation of the world.
Here is a quote from the Bible, from Daniel’s book (chapter 2, verse 37):
“You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others”
Notice how the Holy Bible speaks about a pagan king, who hasn’t got a clue about God’s existence, a king who worships golden and wooden statues, but a king that’s been given a kingdom from God. The king is Nabucodonosor, the king of Babylon, one of the biggest empires in history. Do you really think one could now become president of any country without God’s will? No way. But that doesn’t mean that God approves of all the president’s choices and deeds, it only shows that fact that God can influence the world even if we are free, without restricting our choices.
Here is another quote, where the same thing is discussed, in the First Book of Chronicles (chap. 10, vers. 13-14):
“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.”
Here you can also notice how God sets things up so that the ruling of a state is given to whom He wants. Also, in this book, at chapter 22, vers 18:
“Is not the LORD your God with you? And has He not given you rest on every side? For He has given the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the LORD and before His people.”
Here we can see how God takes care of His people, by keeping away the neighbouring people who want to attack them. In the external politics of the world, nothing happens without His will.
Here is another example from the Deuteronomy (chap.2, verse. 9):
““Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab, nor contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land as a possession, because I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”
In this verse, we can see how God establishes the territorial limits of each state.
We’ve accustomed ourselves to thinking that God limits Himself only to sins, passions, or church-related things, but we forget that He is the creator of all the seen and the unseen things. If we, narrow-minded, perceive things at a micro level, that doesn’t mean God is also like this. We believe that God intervenes only sporadically, in some people’s lives, because we have little faith. If we were wiser, more open-minded, if our passions wouldn’t render us blind, we would understand that the world is in God’s hands.
Fear not, for God, The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit is always near us, with the good people, with the bad people, it’s up to us to feel His presence and His help.
Nothing happens without his will, the good as well as the bad, don’t ever forget this!
(Written by Claudiu, translated from romanian by Costin)