I found this list of “20 questions for every spiritual seeker” awhile back on the interesting travel blog site Matador, and I finally decided to meet the challenge to provide my personal answers to them. These are among the most challenging questions we can consider, and I suspect our answers are as diverse as we are. I don’t think I am up to the full challenge of answering them all at once, so I will answer one at a time. While I would prefer to answer the “easier” ones first, I will take them in order.
The first question is “Why is there poverty and suffering in the world?”. That’s a doozy of a question to start with, as this question has posed one of the biggest challenges to faith. I, too, struggled with this issue until doing the research for The Best Possible World, studying the concepts of free will and choice. The simple idea is that God requires from us only that we search for Him with complete free will. If God were obviously present in our lives, for example preventing bad things from ever happening, we would not have a true choice of whether to believe. To believe as we are told that God loves us, though bad things do happen, seems to require a belief that struggle in this life must be “less worse” than some alternative. What those alternatives may be is a matter of personal belief and tradition (and the subject of questions 11 and 12). I do not believe that God wants us to suffer, but allows it to allow us the privilege of the freedom to choose. It is a high price to pay; the reward must be large enough to match the price.
“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” –Friedrich Nietzsche