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The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
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Why Does God Still Pick on Me?

Rodney Richards | Jun 10, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES Suffering and Its Purpose

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Rodney Richards | Jun 10, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES Suffering and Its Purpose

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Baha’i teachings explain the central human paradox:

…all the doings of man are sustained by the power of divine assistance, but the choice of good or evil belongs to him alone. It is like when the king appoints an individual as governor of a city, grants him full authority, and shows him that which is just or unjust according to the law. Now, should the governor commit injustice, even though he acts by the power and authority of the king, yet the king would not condone his injustice. And should the governor act with justice, this too would be through the royal authority, and the king would be well pleased and satisfied with his justice.

Our meaning is that the choice of good and evil belongs to man, but that under all circumstances he is dependent upon the life-sustaining assistance of Divine Providence. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 289.

We have been given life, and living means suffering, even from good intentions. The simple honest answer is that God does not create suffering, yet suffering according to the Buddha and Christ and Baha’u’llah is man’s condition in this material universe.

Let’s take the “Four Noble Truths of Buddhism” as a format on which to compare and contrast suffering. In brief form, they state:

  1. Suffering is our existence.
  2. Suffering is caused by craving, wanting or desirousness.
  3. Freedom from suffering can be secured.
  4. The way out of suffering is to follow the path.

This is obviously a mixed message when it comes to natural disasters we do not cause, yet it’s common to all religious traditions. The hope contained here, as in religion, is that with God’s help and by following a spiritual path, we can ameliorate our suffering and the suffering of others. We can stop blaming God for our suffering, and asking “Why does God still pick on me?” in our lowest moments. We can begin to see beyond the immediate pain of our suffering, and begin to see its purpose.

So what is the purpose of suffering? Here’s an explanation from the Baha’i teachings:

Physical pain is a necessary accompaniment of all human existence, and as such is unavoidable. As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering, in various forms and degrees. But suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilised as a means for the attainment of happiness. This is the interpretation given to it by all the prophets and saints who, in the midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. And this is due to his desire to know more than he can. God’s wisdom is, indeed, inscrutable to us all, and it is no use pushing too far trying to discover that which shall always remain a mystery to our mind. – Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434.

It would be glib of me to suggest we embrace our suffering, yet it’s obvious that many people get stronger from it, and indeed, overcome it. They serve as examples to all of us:

To the sincere ones, tests are as a gift from God, the Exalted, for a heroic person hasteneth, with the utmost joy and gladness, to the tests of a violent battlefield, but the coward is afraid and trembles and utters moaning and lamentation. Likewise, an expert student prepareth and memorizeth his lessons and exercises with the utmost effort, and in the day of examination he appeareth with infinite joy before the master. Likewise, the pure gold shineth radiantly in the fire of test. Consequently, it is made clear that for holy souls, trials are as the gift of God, the Exalted; but for weak souls they are an unexpected calamity. This test is just as thou hast written: it removeth the rust of egotism from the mirror of the heart until the Sun of Truth may shine therein. For, no veil is greater than egotism and no matter how thin that covering may be, yet it will finally veil man entirely and prevent him from receiving a portion from the eternal bounty. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 371.

Finally, if you neither accept nor agree that “tests are a healing medicine,” perhaps on your journey you may come to accept the following:

Verily the Will of God acts sometimes in a way for which mankind is unable to find out the reason. The causes and reasons shall appear. Trust in God and confide in Him, and resign thyself to the Will of God. Verily thy God is affectionate, compassionate and merciful… and will cause His Mercy to descend upon thee. – Abdu’l-BahaBaha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 110.

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  • Jun 11, 2016
    Suffering as natural evil is an anthropometric attitude that wishes that nature would be biased towards humanity. It is the human view that human life is worth more than all non-human life put together. A human who kills a human in self-defense yet an animal that does so is natural evil as nature isn't conforming to the anthropometric view that humans have more value. Nature tends to be fair and proportional, but humans want to be special and exempt from the rules that bind the other forms of life than them.
    Moral evil usually takes the form of people ...choosing evil because it's evil or despite it being evil. There is a rare form where people choose evil because they think it is good.
    Social attitudes Prejudice Violence
    Social attitudes
    Anti-LGBT slogans Heteronormativity Gay panic LGBT rights opposition LGBT stereotypes Religion and homosexuality Transgenderism and religion
    Prejudice and discrimination
    AIDS stigma Biphobia Genderism Heterosexism Homophobia Internalized homophobia Lesbophobia Non-binary discrimination Riddle scale SPLC-designated list of anti-gay U.S. hate groups Transmisogyny Transphobia
    Violence against LGBT people
    Corrective rape Death penalty for homosexuality Gay bashing History of violence in the UK History of violence in the US Significant acts of violence against LGBT people Trans bashing Unlawfully killed transgender people LGBT suicides
    Fundamentalism is a source of moral evil. All the above listed stuff are products of fundamentalism. Unless one is a Deist who believe God is univalves in the world and all religion is just rumors about God who doesn't speak or act beyond being a watchmaker, you find the paradox that God is both ignorant of and complicit in fundamentalism. God can claim ignorance of fundamentalism because God never told people directly to be a fundamentalist. Yet due to God's omniscience, he knows that people either believe in word that claim to be his yet he doesn't say they aren't his words to them or he knows people are misinterpreting his words yet doesn't communicate the correct interpretation to them. Other humans can do that, but the fundamentalist can say the human has no more knowledge than them and has no official divine backing in refuting their beliefs and practices.
  • Steve Eaton
    Jun 11, 2016
    This is another fine article. I really like to hear Abdu'l-Baha say we alone make the choice to do good or evil. I'm sure that means we alone are accountable, too. I think the Christian theory of Jesus' "substitutionary
    atonement" denies our full responsibility and is based on a misunderstanding of Scripture. Beyond that, a few immature Christians seem to push the doctrine's limits to their own advantage, taking license in the assumption their future sins will be "washed away" without a care. This impunity has got to be a real abuse of grace!
    I ...also like Shoghi Effendi's comment on man's "desire to know more than he can". This basically forces him toward a presumptive stance, and puts him very far out on a limb morally. The risks of harm, the "stakes", go up the more we assume.
    Part of responsibility is knowing we don't know.
    Of course, generalizing is a form of assumption, but I will go out on that limb: it has really seemed to me
    over the years that at some point most people gravitate toward either taking or giving, and that determines how they will likely respond to suffering. That is, it will make them hard, cold, and defensive, or tender, warm, and charitable. We know God wants the latter, but cultural slogans like "...the tough get going" and "thick skin" don't help. I think part of the answer is knowing the difference between hardness and strength; in metallurgy, they even tend to work against each other!
    There is also a difference between accepting the pain that comes to us and looking for trouble. I wouldn't guess that fool-hardiness and "tempting fate" are part of any doctrine. Aren't gambling and suicide
    usually forbidden?
    Because we haven't died yet, we are not in a place to see the "big picture". All our speculations and the doctrines we study don't give us enough specifics to decide whether or in which realm ultimate justice is realized.
    • rodney Richards
      Jun 11, 2016
      Beyond the immediate pain or trial caused by suffering , it always causes awareness regardless of cause. What we do with that awareness, how we react can be noble or base, selfish or magnanimous it seems, and often overwhelming. When I had sciatica it was the worst pain of my life; cause unknown. Poor posture perhaps? Not enough exercise? It caused me to brainstorm any way at all to alleviate it. That made me think of others and how minor, how blessed I was to only experience it for a few months, with it disappearing on its own. Now I ...think twice before denigrating anyone's pain. Perhaps I had not learned the lesson of empathy. One thing for sure, I realized we all suffer: and I was fed up with sufferings caused by man against man or woman or child, since they can be avoided.
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