4 Desperately Hopeless Yet Common Approaches To Suffering And Death
When I was four years old my brother Scott died a few days after birth. At that age I didn’t know what to think about death. After getting special permission, my father put Scott’s little casket in the trunk of our car and we transported him from Ohio to a family burial plot in Michigan.
Mom and dad Claude & Barbara Williams
Sometime later my mother was crying and I reminded her, “Jesus will make it OK. Isn’t that what you taught me mommy?”
When mom died suddenly of a heart attack in 1994, at that time it was probably the most difficult experience of my life. I began to think a lot more about how God could allow pain, suffering and death.
After many other deaths and difficulties that have followed, my faith is stronger because of the answers and comfort I have found in the Bible.
My faith is also stronger due to the clear insufficiencies of other philosophies.
I wrote about the hopelessness of the atheistic or agnostic approach. CLICK HERE to read that post.
There are also some other desperately inadequate philosophies about suffering and death:
ONE: The Impersonal God Philosophy
This philosophy says, “There is a God, but he is so far above us that he doesn’t care about our suffering.”
Sadly, this view renders God impersonal and unloving. As with atheism, the result is meaninglessness with no hope and no answers to life’s ultimate questions.
This was Einstein’s viewpoint; he believed that there is obviously a cosmic eternal rational power that launched everything into existence. He was annoyed when people used his discoveries to argue for atheism. But Einstein believed that good and evil are too far beneath God for Him to care about them.
Thankfully the Bible says God cares so much He died so we could live eternally in paradise.
Scripture says that instead of being uninvolved, God the Son (Jesus) gave everything to alleviate suffering when He died on the cross for our sins. Nothing more loving and self-sacrificing has ever been done before, or since. Then He rose again to conquer sin and death for all who receive His free gift of salvation.
TWO: The Pathetic God Philosophy
This philosophy sadly says, “God cares, but he can’t do anything about suffering.” In other words, He is an incompetent, pathetic God.
The God of this pathetic philosophy is Rabbi Harold Kushner’s God. He wrote the popular book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner says that God hopes to someday be all-powerful, but right now He just doesn’t have it in Him.
One problem with this approach is that it is illogical. How could God create the universe and yet be powerless to change it?
Elie Wiesel said about Kushner’s God, “If that’s who God is, why doesn’t he resign and let someone more competent take his place?”
THREE: The Illusion Philosophy
This viewpoint says that suffering is just an illusion. So to deal with suffering, you must detach yourself from the illusion and live on a higher level.
Religious Science holds this view. Buddhism also says, “When we possess the proper wisdom we can rid ourselves of delusions and thus of all our problems and suffering.”
The problem with this is people live in denial and out of touch with the realities of suffering.
FOUR: The Ignore it Philosophy
This viewpoint says, “I’ll live for today and if suffering comes, I’ll just ignore it and medicate as best I can.”
The problem is that while life may be tranquil now, someday suffering will come.When it comes, people are not prepared and end up in alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, suicide, etc.
Suffering can be handled far better. In this blog I share a Biblical and healthy approach to suffering: How to Handle the Death of a Loved One and Other Losses