Again today, a person confirmed that she had lived for decades with anger toward God because of “things not going right” in her life. The pain was too much. The anger reached the point of not wanting anything to do with or about God.
It is true that some Christians had over the decades wanted to help her, but their approach didn’t make a connection. Is there some way to help folk like this? The following approach may allow for some fruitful dialogue.
I begin by mentioning that in the mind of many people, the reality of pain is an irrefutable argument against Christian theism. Many examples from the field of philosophy could be mentioned. In a very condensed form, the argument is that if pain (and its conjoined sibling, evil) are realities, then a theistic God who is moral, all knowing, and all loving doesn’t exist. It is said that this proposed antithesis does not allow for both the existence of God and the existence of pain / evil. It is, as they say, a disjunctive syllogism.
One of the responses to this situation (you will see the word “theodicy” used in the “literature”) has to do with human free will. But, I suggest that we address the matter in a different fashion, by asking about the role of pain in sentient creatures.
If there were no pain. what would life be like? Would we be aware of physical problems (injuries, illnesses, etc.) if we didn’t feel pain? Would we be aware of the seriousness and damage resulting from moral errors and deficiencies if we did not experience the pain of guilt? Would we sense any need to “improve” or “explore” without some kind of pain impacting us? Would we have “longings?” for something better without the pain of living in a never changing world?
These kind of questions move us to focus on pain not as a mistake by a creator God, or as proof that theism is self-defeating. Rather, we begin to see pain as a necessary tool for the ongoing existence of sentient beings. Pain doesn’t have a stand-alone status. Pain is an alarm that rings when something is out of synch. If humanity didn’t experience pain in its many permutations, humanity would have ceased to exist long ago without ever knowing that its pleasure-only existence was condemning it to extinction. Wanting a pain free life is synonymous to an unconscious death-wish.
You don’t have to be either a sadist or a masochist to value pain. You simply need to be a realist who thanks God for not making it possible for us to activate a global off switch.