Response from: Fr. Jim
Thanks for your question. It is definitely a question that most of us have asked at some point in our lives. I would first respond by saying that it is all in one’s perspective. When I have travelled to poorer countries and experienced various cultures, I often would return home very grateful for all that I have and for the opportunities that I have in my home country in comparison to other places. But when I have spoken with the locals in those countries, they are often quite generous and happy people and do not focus on what they are lacking or the hardships that they face on a daily basis. That is why I believe it comes back to our perspective.
First of all, it must be said that humans are incapable of fully understanding God. In our Divine Liturgy we address God with these words: “You are God – ineffable [beyond words], inconceivable [beyond description], invisible [beyond our sight], incomprehensible [beyond understanding].” We continue in that same prayer to declare: “You brought us from nothingness into being and, after we fell, you raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until you led us to heaven and granted us your future kingdom.” And so, we can affirm the words of the prophecy of Jeremiah; “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans of fullness, not of harm, to give you a future and hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
If we believe that God is a God of love, mercy and compassion we will not see our daily struggles as harder than others, but rather see struggles and challenges as that which we are required to face that day. These challenges could be financial, emotional, physical or spiritual; but, if we can trust in God’s mercy and love, we can learn to face these situations with peace of heart and mind.
God loves you and does not want you or anyone to suffer, but we all have free will and choices in life, in which God will not interfere. Some people make good choices and others bad, but that does not mean that God doesn’t love them, it just means that they made a bad choice. God doesn’t make someone a drug addict, rather it is the personal choices that an individual has made that has made them a drug addict. It all comes back to our perspective on life, what we may see as a hard life, may be a good and peaceful life for someone else. We are all born into different circumstances, socio-economic conditions, and families and that is just the way that it is, but the choices and decisions that we make within our lives is what truly makes the difference.
Yet, there are situations that could be so devastating and overwhelming that they are beyond our strength to overcome or to regard with peace of heart and mind. Here we must rely on the presence of God that comes to us in the people of good will and kind-heartedness who reach out to us. At the same time, if we ourselves can learn not to be so caught up in our own struggles, we can be instruments of God’s outreach to others.
Despite beatings, imprisonment, harsh and cruel treatment, St. Paul was able to say: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). When we live a life of gratitude to God for the simplest of things, we can often find peace and joy even in difficult circumstances.
God Bless You!