Question for Dr. Norm; “Why did Terry have to suffer so much when many evil people don’t seem to suffer at all”? (Part Two)
It was brought to my attention that in my last blog on this topic I did not really answer the main question. That is a good observation because I did not address the issue of how was Terry’s suffering fair compared to others who are evil who seem to suffer less?
Now this is not a new question. Nor it is limited to the suffering of my wife but to millions of other people. But this is a real personal question for me.
The answer to this question depends on your worldview.
The two significant worldviews found in our culture is the naturalistic perspective and the Christian perspective.
From a naturalistic perspective the only life we have is this short physical life. So ultimately if a person suffers and dies that is more moral than a less moral person who suffers far less and dies, then a basic unfairness has occurred. The “good” person had a worst life than the “bad” person and so justice was not done.
In this perspective there is no resolution of this but only the acceptance that the random and impersonal cosmos is not obliged to create a fair life. We can get frustrated, angry, and upset about such inequalities but there is no solution to them. Unfairness is just the natural course of nature at times. Many holding to this perspective will use this fact as evidence that there is no “good god” running the world since such unfairness is allowed to happen.
From a Christian perspective God is delaying ultimate justice till the time of death but does guarantee fairness to all moral creatures.
Hebrews 9:27 NASB – “27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NASB – “13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
Rom 2:5-11 NASB – “5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.”
So in this basic theology while in the context of this life the righteous may suffer worst than the wicked at time, in the end justice rules. Indeed it is clear with Jesus being seen as the most righteous of all human beings that the Christian perspective teaches that here “East of Eden” in the land that has rebelled against God’s rule that suffering will be experienced by all, both good and bad. Yet, in the judgment day the scales of justice will be made right.
Now this principle eventually works its way out to the deeper theology of Christianity that there is none righteous. Every human being has been enough of a moral failure to suffer the just wrath and indignation of God on judgment day. But Jesus took upon himself the just condemnation for our sins so that we may be forgiven for our great moral failures. Even forgiveness must be fair in the Christian perspective. God can only forgive people if Messiah’s suffering in their place pays for the price for their lack of love for righteousness.
At this point however, the focus is that if a person is really lacking repentance and does evil then in the Christian worldview they will be justly punished for their deeds regardless if they seemed to be free of problems in this short span of life. Therefore, in the larger picture no unfairness occurs. So from this perspective there may be a temporary apparent inequality during time but all things are resolved in eternity. This means that the appearance of inequality and injustice is due to not taking into account the entire scope of reality. Time only makes sense in light of eternity.
The classic meditation on this is found in Psalm 73.
Psa 73:2-12, 17-20 NASB – “2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. 8 They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 They say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. …
17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.”
So the question is not new and is one that the prophets struggled with. However, the biblical worldview does give an explanation that satisfies our need of justice.
So when struggling with the suffering that Terry experienced there is no answers in a purely naturalistic perspective. But from the Christian perspective and looking at time in light of eternity, there is some hope of understanding. So I believe that the Christian point of view provides better understanding of her suffering than a purely naturalistic one.
This does not make her suffering easy for me. Nor does it remove all my questions. But it does give me a framework in which I can hope one day to get them.
I would also recommend C.S. Lewis’ book about his wife’s suffering and death called “A Grief Observed”. This book points out the great difficulty of coping with the suffering of a loved one and the struggle we must go through emotionally as we try to cope with it. I find Lewis’ thoughts and feelings on these matters very helpful.