How Can God Allow Such Things?
Looking For Answers In Our Darkest Hour
By Dr. Ifeoma Ikenze
“If there is a meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in
— Victor Frankl, Holocaust Survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning
Since the events of September 11th, what person on earth has not uttered, or at least thought, “How can God allow such things?”
Many of the world’s spiritual and political leaders have raised this plea and joined millions of people all around the globe, as we grapple with the enormity of the loss of human life and a certain way of life. Every feeling human being on earth lost something that day, and we are all grieving.
At best, leaders point to the mystery of God, offering empathy but no explanation. Reverend Billy Graham said on Friday following the attacks, “...The Bible says God is not the author of evil. It speaks of evil as a mystery . . . and, I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction.”
It is true that the outpouring of empathy — in America and around the world for the victims, their families and everyone impacted by these tragedies — can help. We all want to be understood in our darkest hour. It can ease our suffering when we experience the care and concern of others. This is in fact an important step in healing . . . to receive loving empathy and to give it.
And yet we must not stop short at the threshold of empathy and neglect the most profound source of healing and spiritual growth in the face of suffering. For if what Victor Frankl says is true (and who could question his suggestion, when as a concentration camp survivor he experienced some of the most atrocious acts of terror against humanity), then we must come to some deeply personal understanding about our suffering and its meaning. For, to paraphrase Frankl, “If we cannot agree that our suffering harbors meaning, then our life has no meaning.”
Where else do we go to sort out the most fundamental questions about our existence, but to our relationship with God? This is perhaps why, in our darkest moments, for those human spirits where the spark of life is still alive, we automatically wonder, “How can God allow such things?” Much good can come from digging deep within our souls and grappling with questions such as this; questions that are essential to our existence.
Leaders of the Modern World have been concerned for some time now about questions central to our existence and the condition of the future of life on earth. In fact, many of the world’s most distinguished scientists, philosophers, educators, artists, and business, religious and political leaders convened in San Francisco, California during September, 1995 at the first State of the World Forum, (a multi-year, global initiative). Mikhail Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, George Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Thich Nhat Hanh, Fritjof Capra, Ted Turner and Vaclav Havel were among the 350 participants committed to fulfilling a historic aim. Their mission was to articulate the fundamental priorities, values and actions necessary to constructively shape our common future, and to address the statement by Vaclav Havel.
“There are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Many things indicate we are going through a transitional period, when it seems something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself while something else still indistinct were arising from the rubble.”
These words now seem hauntingly prophetic as we think of the many survivors and rescuers who arose from the rubble at “ground zero” in lower Manhattan, transformed forever by what they experienced. What was lost is unimaginable. What they and the rest of the world gained is profoundly important: a chance to glimpse a deeper meaning to life. This is where we must go in our thoughts as we move through the horror, pain and grieving, and try again to “constructively shape our — now more than ever — common future.” We must be willing to look for the meaning in our suffering.
Everyone, from the highest political leader to the simplest man on the street, acknowledges the progressive and distressing chaos and suffering in our world. Everywhere one looks, one finds discord, disease, destruction and degeneration in the environment, our institutions, our individual lives as well as in our relationships and the greater society. We fear for our children and for the future. How did we get into this crisis situation? How are we to extricate ourselves from it?
Political summits are held, religious conferences convene, innumerable books are written . . . and the persistent questions “why” and “how” remain unanswered. As one of the 350 participants in the inaugural State of the World Forum, I listened to each speaker and could only think to myself, “I wish every member of this forum would read Dr. Richard Steinpach’s “How Can God Allow Such Things?” Fundamentally, Steinpach has succeeded in exposing “how” and “why” the world is in its present state.
He explains, and we all know, that many people turn away from religion because they perceive a serious incongruity between their religious beliefs and the reality of their daily experiences. Science, in an explosion of new discoveries of unprecedented scope presents a broader view of the cosmos that challenges our previously held ideas concerning God, creation and man. We begin to observe an order and exactness in the microcosmic and macrocosmic manifestations of life that is mind-boggling in its complexity and yet awe inspiring in its uniformity, perfection and simplicity.
Where does man’s freewill feature in this intricate picture? Where does his responsibility begin? As the creature with the most highly-developed intellect, whose influence on the material world is so painfully visible, are we the masters of the universe as science leads us to believe? If so, how can we reconcile that notion with a belief that seeks to abdicate all responsibility to a capricious, inscrutable or elusive God?
What, in fact, do people really mean when they say How Can God Allow Such Things? Perhaps when uttered angrily in a moment of desperation, it is a declaration of blame. Do we recognize that we cannot blame God for the particular circumstances and experiences of our lives? Expressed as a plea for help, it at the very least, reveals our confusion in the midst of disaster. Do we intuitively sense that each experience, whether painful or pleasant, is meant to serve a deeper purpose that we are willing to recognize?
Perhaps most importantly, the question, How can God allow such things? brings to light our desire to understand how and why misfortune strikes. This wanting to understand the “how’s” and “why’s” of our misfortunes catapults us into our personal and collective mission as human beings. If we are not to abdicate all responsibility to an elusive God, who then is responsible?
In his book “How Can God Allow Such Things?” Richard Steinpach explains the true nature of “response-ability.” He leads us to an appreciation of the unity of the spiritual and material world, and beyond man’s pivotal role within it as an intelligent and responsible creature. By applying the basic Laws of Nature, two worlds that have remained separated until now are successfully brought together: the material world of science and the ethereal world of the spirit. If people truly understood how the Natural Laws underpin everything spiritual and scientific, they would dramatically change how they live.
As the architects of our own destiny, we can determine for ourselves, must determine for ourselves, in fact, whether or not we will use this brief time granted us on earth, to paraphrase Havel, in order to “crumble and decay, or to arise from the rubble.” And although books like those from Frankl and Steinpach can shed light in our darkest hour, it is in the deeply personal moments we spend in relationship with our Creator that we can experience an all encompassing and awe-inspiring impartiality; a Higher Order in Creation. And this perfection must bring every serious observer to a genuine recognition of God and an understanding of what it means to be a human being.
With these insights, we need never despairingly cry, “How can God allow such things?” again, for the real question is, “How can man allow such things?”
As a public service, Grail Foundation Press and WISDOM Media Group offer the full text of Steinpach’s “How Can God Allow Such Things?” as a FREE down-loadable book. Please log on to www.wisdommedia.com and go to the “OTHER FEATURES” column on WISDOM’s “Peace Initiatives” page. Click on “FREE download of HOW CAN GOD ALLOW SUCH THINGS?” Questions about this and other books published by GFP can be directed to this toll-free number (800) 427-9217.
Dr. Ikenze practices pediatric and complementary medicine at the Elizabeth Medical Clinic in San Anselmo, California, where she is Founder/Director. Her long and distinguished career in the Homeopathic community includes having been a member of the Board of Directors for the California Homeopathic Medical Society, as well as for authoring “Menopause and Homeopathy: A Guide for Women in Midlife.”
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