There are two sides to the problem of evil. That is, the logical problem of evil, and the emotional problem of evil.
Maybe I should back up a bit.
By “problem of evil”, I mean, of course, the problem people have reconciling the coexistence of both God and evil in the world.
Maybe I should back up more.
The logical version of this, struggles with purely the logical concept of the coexistence of a good God and the presence of evil. This is well addressed through a variety of logical arguments showing there is no logical contradiction here. This is beyond the scope of this post and more on it can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/the-problem-of-suffering-and-evil-aalborg-university and many other sources. But, the version of this is of a completely (in my opinion) different type. That is the emotional problem. This does not deal with any apparent logical contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of God on an objective, universal level, but instead is more personal. This is rooted purely in emotion: in hurt, anguish, and pain. Instead of saying “I don’t see how this can be…”, it says “How can this be???”
It is that point when you’re so broken down, so torn down, in so much pain, when you conclude there must be no God because if there was, He wouldn’t let this happen.
I think we’ve all been there.
But I’m not.
Usually the only way to deal with this version of the problem of evil is through counseling and experience. But I would like to suggest that there is a logical way to address this. Either way you boil this down, you are ultimately dealing with an issue of personal belief, because there’s no logical way to justify the position that there is no God in all of existence just because you yourself are having a hard time (to say the least). That’s incredibly narcissistic and you honestly aren’t that special. At most you can conclude that as far as you can determine from your own experience, there is not likely to be a God (because there could be a God, just one who’s punishing you, not looking after you, basically not a good version of God). But, this is ultimately rooted in the problem that you are emotionally and intellectually seemingly incapable of believing in the existence of a good God and this evil going on in your life. Because, let’s face it, if you did still decide to believe in Him despite what’s going on in your life, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. So, it stands to reason that if just one person has gone through a terrible circumstance in life and is still able to believe in God, then it stands that God can still exist, and the problem is merely a personal one in which you find it hard or impossible to personally believe in God in your circumstance, but that He really does exist.
So let me tell you my story….
November 2009: marry the woman I love. February 2011: birth of my first son. August 2011: Got a cushy, well-paying government job. December 2011: Graduate with my masters pursuing my dream of an academic career in paleontology. Sound like I had everything going for me? Yes and no. Behind the scenes, my life is miserable. My wife has severe emotional problems and I am practically a single dad despite being married. Every morning I go to work sick to my stomach with worry that my spouse will be able to handle taking care of our son, anticipating one of the week’s several intense emotional crises, and despite my best efforts I can barely keep a decent balance in the bank account and pay all the bills. In the midst of all this, I was getting progressively sicker. Starting really in January I was regularly experiencing intense gut pains that would make normal men want to curl up in the corner and cry, but I still had to take charge of child care every night and weekend. My wife’s demands and instability led me to miss work regularly, and my sickness caused me to miss even more.
April 2012: Missing work catches up with me, and I am let go. Suddenly I have to figure out how to provide for my family. Fortunately, I pull out what retirement money I built up on the job, and I got unemployment insurance when that ran out. Little did I know my troubles were just beginning.
May 2012: I go in for a routine procedure at my gastroenterologist’s office. By the time I get there, I’m experiencing the worst pain yet. I was curled up on a bed, barely able to talk. They admit me to the hospital. The treatment: stick a tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach to pump out the contents and starve me for several days. In the meantime I have to deal with my wife’s constant emotional breakdowns trying to deal with our son all by herself for the first 24/7 time in our marriage. I expend just as much energy calming her down and convincing her to take care of him as I do recovering.
I get out, still in pain but put on a special low-fiber diet. For the most part, I can’t eat much. I was still in pain, though not quite as much. I lost some 15-20 lbs in the hospital.
Within a month, I would go back in. The ironic part of what comes next is my wife and I started a marriage class at our church a week prior. But this night, I was in intense pain again. Unable to straighten up or hardly talk, I’m taken back to the ER. This time, they operate. Everything goes fine. Then, that night, I get a call from my wife.
“I cheated” She cried. She invited some random guy into our house, and slept with him in our bed. The nurse has to give me some sort of muscle relaxant to calm me down. She says she’s sorry and I say we can get past it and move on. I work on forgiving her.
Two days later she comes into the hospital room with hickies covering her neck.
She swears it’s over. We argue, I forgive her, and we try to move on.
After I get out of the hospital, the lies continue. I find text messages, pictures on disposable phones, catch her at his house late at night, messages to other guys on dating sites. Each time she swears up and down, sometimes with tears in her eyes, that it’s over and she won’t do it again. So I ended it, contacted to guy and told him to stay away. Her response? She was furious at me. Then, I catch her going to meet a second guy one night. I contact him and tell him she’s married and he ends it, too.
She comes home, and I tell her I’m filing for divorce.
To make matters worse, while I was in the hospital my former employer takes me to court and sues to remove my unemployment benefits. They succeed, and I’m required to somehow pay back everything they gave me over the prior two months. So now I end up draining my savings while waiting for welfare to kick in and help out with bills.
Did I mention our lease was about to end at the house we were all living in?
Fortunately, God intervened and a good friend of mine stepped in saying they need someone to occupy their rental property before her parents moved in and took over the place next year.
And, during that, I found out my wife was pregnant. The big question became: with who’s baby?