Theodicy and Suffering

Theodicy, the attempt to answer the question of how a benevolent God can exist in the face of evil, has been a topic of interest for theologians for centuries. “The Problem of Evil” is among the most popular arguments for Atheism. Theodicy can take a number of forms that align with the acceptance that evil and suffering may actually serve some larger purpose, often unbeknownst to us. The first debate I had regarding theodicy was at Jewish summer camp many years ago when one of our counselors brought up the question of why God permitted the Holocaust to take place. Our conclusion was that without the Holocaust, Israel might have never come into fruition. In this case, theodicy was being used to offer an explanation for the existence of evil. However, theodicy may also entail dismissing the possibility of understanding the will of God and simply saying “x is what God wanted for some reason, so I’ll just accept x.” Believing in the latter requires considerable faith.

Recently my aunt Golda, an amazing woman and the mother of three of my cousins, passed away more than ten years after having a serious stroke. For over a decade, she could not speak and was bedridden. She likely faced immense suffering for such a long time and how much she had to endure is tragic. Such a hardship befalling such a good person causes one to call the existence of a benevolent God into question. Why would He have permitted all those years of suffering? Wherever my aunt is now, I hope that she has discovered some kind of purpose to all of it because back here on earth, it’s certainly hard to see. However, one need not look further than her amazing daughters to prove that her life was infinitely meaningful.

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