I have been using 2000 year-old biblical language to lay our groundwork. Bob reminds us we often must translate this into contemporary concepts by noting that science teaches us natural diasters are not “evil.” Lupe suggests more helpful biblical language used by the Gospel of John to describe evil as darkness that is overcome by light. This presents evil as the absence of good. Her comment on Lesson 3 uses that language to cover the practical ways that Christianity offers for overcoming the suffering of this life.
First, there is attitude. Our faith certainly offers hope. If God is engaged in the overcoming of suffering and evil, then we can be confident that our efforts are not in vain. Lupe speaks of this as “awareness,’ recognizing the blessings and joys of life.
Modern Christians might not agree that God creates all or makes all good. They might not feel comfortable describing God using tribulations to cleanse, not punish, our sin and creation’s corruption. But they share God’s promise to be present among us now and to wipe away all tears in the future. If God is with us in all this, if his love is in and behind all reality; then we can be confident that our suffering can be overcome.
That has a very practical affect. To use medicine as an example, our attitude promotes healing. Those who work with the sick report a positive attitude contributes to healing.
Second, the way to overcome evil is to do good. Paul often defines Christian love as returning good for evil. Lupe says much the same when she characterizes good as positive and evil as negative. She writes that being passive is to change nothing. It is to accept the status quo that causes suffering for so many. To act negatively, believing we can only choose the lesser of two evils, is simply to perpetuate the evil, adding more hate, racism, greed, and violence. Martin Luther King put it this way: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… The chain reaction of evil- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
Rather than being passive or taking negative actions that cause us to move backward, we are called to do more and more of those positive things that lead to a better world. Again to use medicine, healing is usually not promoted when we ignore a disease. Nor is disease ultimately overcome when we simply rely on medicines, with all sorts of side affects, to treat the immediate suffering of its symptoms. Real healing involves a response that changes our lifestyle and contributes to long term sustainable health.
Third, there is the support of the Christian community. Lupe implies this when she observes suffering can be made “less terrifying when families envelop each other in love.” This extends beyond the family to the entire Body of Christ. A loving, sharing community helps us overcome our individual suffering.
I plan to go on discussing these three responses in the next lessons. Let’s end this one with Lupe’s conclusion. “All this is to say that I believe God gave us humans the tools, the capacity for good and for happiness. When we do not use them, when we turn away from them, then we allow evil and suffering, like darkness and cold, to take over our lives.”