I’ve come to intensely dislike the proposed “solution” to the question of pain and suffering which says (in crude summary), “Any suffering we experience is less than we deserve as sinners; the wonder is that God is so merciful in letting us ever experience freedom from suffering.”
I dislike it because it’s so neat in attempting to define the whole question out of existence, so cold in its emotionless appeal to logic in the face of agony (“Your questioning the goodness of God is… illogical, captain”) – and because in fact it explains nothing, because it doesn’t explain why I, sinner, enjoy a largely suffering-free existence, whereas I could run off a list of people known to me personally who deserve far less than I but who have known (and continue to know) real anguish.
All it does is let us off the hook; gives us a way to satisfy ourselves intellectually without convincing others or, deep down, ourselves.
Hence I love this poem by Scott Cairns, which succinctly expresses why this “apology” for suffering is simply “not good enough” – “thin soil” which gives way when we are confronted by the suffering of the “undeserving”:
No new attempt at apology here:
All suffer, though few suffer anything
like what they deserve.
Still, there are the famous undeserving
whose pain astonishes even the most
whose own days have been consumed by hopeless
explanation for that innocent whose torn
face or weeping burns
or ravenous disease says simply no,
not good enough. This is where we must begin:
pain, nothing you can hope to finger
into exposition, nothing you can
cover up. A fault
—unacceptable and broad as life—gapes
at your feet, and the thin soil you stand
upon is giving way.