“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.” (Mt 13:36-39).
In this parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus is addressing the ancient question of why God allows evil and how are we to deal with it. Why do bad things happen to good people? As a starting point, we need to recognize that God is God and we are not; meaning that we are not capable of reading the mind of God. Any answer to explain how and why God allows suffering will be insufficient. A second reality is that the Devil exists, though he is a created being. An angelic being, yes, but not equal in any way to God.
God is not a being. At best we can say he is Infinite Act of Existence, he is, or as God told Moses, “I am who am” (Exodus 3:14). God did not create evil, he only created good. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31). The Devil, Satan, the one who opposes, was created good also, as a high archangel, Lucifer, yet he chose to turn away from the will of God, and those angels who followed him are demons. God is greater than the Devil and his demons, and his good is greater than the evil they sow.
Evil is not so much a created thing, but a deprivation, or distortion of the good. God does not create evil, but he does allow it, and even though we cannot understand the reasons why God allows or permits evil or suffering, it is not a sufficient reason to say that God does not exist. This is especially true if we are seeking to grasp spiritual realities and truths from purely physical and rational means alone. We are indeed rational beings, who seek to know and to understand which is good, but we are so much more. As human beings, we are physical AND spiritual, so need not limit ourselves to the merely sensate and empirical realm alone.
To better be guided by God, to hear his voice in the silence of our soul, to be fulfilled, our hearts and minds need to be open to the will of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. We are called to be people of prayer. As we mature spiritually and deepen our relationship with God we will come to experience God as did Job: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful to me, which I cannot know” (Job 42: 2-3). In essence, Job acknowledged and accepted that God was in control and he was not, and though he could not grasp everything, he trusted in the will of God for his ultimate good.
How do we deal with evil then? We need to surrender our pride and control over to God and acknowledge that he is in charge and knows what is best for us. We need to choose to put God first above ourselves and everything and everyone else. Our fundamental option, our telos, our end goal, is to be above all an embrace of the reality that we are striving to be in a relationship with God. From the moment of our conception, we are a living, craving, hunger, and desire to be one with God and one another. This is true of the atheist and the mystic alike, whether we believe it or not. As we embrace this reality, put God first and focus on him, no matter what arises, we will begin to experience his presence in not only our everyday lives but begin to feel his presence with us in the midst of our suffering. We will come to know that he is stronger than any pain or evil, his grace is greater than any of our sins, and he will guide us through and give us what we need to endure.
Our loving God and Father has given us the means to understand suffering and evil especially in sending his Son to enter into our humanity, to suffer with us, even unto his unjust death on the cross. Our deepest prayer is when we willingly offer up our suffering and enter into the Mystery of the Passion of Jesus. Jesus, the pure and innocent one, beaten and crucified, understands our pain and agony, our cry for the horrors of injustice, and he understands the presence of evil. Jesus himself, asked not to be crucified, though he relinquished in saying, “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42).
In that acknowledgment, Jesus faced the utter evil, horror, betrayal, and injustice of humanity, his crucifixion. In taking upon himself the sin of the world on the Cross, he even felt his separation from the Father. Through his complete surrender into God forsakenness, into his death, and descent into hell, Jesus made the Resurrection possible. He conquered suffering, evil, and death forever, he brought about a greater good, through the evil of the crucifixion. No matter what trials we face, the Father has the last word over sin, suffering, and even our death.
We may not receive a sufficient answer to suffering but we can enter into the challenges we face with our hope intact because we can trust that God hears our prayers and is present in our trials and tribulations. For our part, we need to be willing to be honest in our prayer, even when we are angry, afraid, doubtful, or frustrated. We will not find Jesus when we deny or run from our challenges. We will find him with his arms wide open and waiting for us when we are willing to except his help, enter into, and face our suffering and pain. “Suffering is never the last word. Life is stronger than death, love is stronger than hatred, hope is stronger than despair, nothing is impossible with God” (Fr. James Martin, S.J.).
We are not alone in our suffering when we resist running from our pain and instead bring what we are going through to Jesus. Our faith grows with each experience of Jesus accompanying us through every agonizing ache. He understands our pain because he experienced the worst of what we suffer through himself being betrayed, his suffering, and dying on the cross. Our hope is strengthened because Jesus has already won the battle and he sends us the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to endure.
No darkness can or will overcome the love of the Holy Spirit. Aligned with God we will be victorious even in the face of the greatest evil that confronts us. Let us, with God and each other, meet whatever storm that arises with confidence and courage as did Jesus when he set his face toward Jerusalem. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we shall overcome.
Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
The quote above comes from Fr. James Martin, S.J. who answered a question on how we deal with suffering. You may access his answer on the YouTube video On Pilgrimage With James Martin SJ Fordham University. His response to dealing with suffering begins around the 1:30:00 mark. The whole video is well worth watching!