The Problem of Evil, Or, We Are All Statistics Till the Conflict Is Over - Shame and Anger: A Response to Small Miracles in a World of Big Pain and Evil
by Jeff Lindsay
Saints and many other Christians sometimes share faith-promoting
stories of how a prayer was answered or how they experienced a
miracle of some kind.
miracles are rarely the big, dramatic ones we might like to see, such
as finding a cure to cancer or a peer-reviewed sighting and interview
with an angel. Yet small miracles in the lives of individuals can be
real and may have significant impact.
sharing of these miracles, however, often brings negative or even
hostile responses, frequently draped in stinging sarcasm.
unto the person who shares a story of losing and finding car keys
after praying for help. Better that a millstone was attached to those
keys and they were tossed into the depths of the sea than to be found
with gratefully received divine help.
that two millstones were attached to a grateful believer’s once
lost kitten. And wo, wo, wo unto any member, but especially any
allegedly insensitive church leader, who would dare to openly discuss
a kindness from God in finding a quarter to buy some food when tired
and hungry (see my discussion of Elder J. Devn Cornish’s story
in my Mormanity post, “Trivial
Miracles and Petty Prayer: How the Accuser Teaches a Man Not to
that the purchased chicken was cast into the sea along with the
quarter and the hungry man himself, than to hint that God might
miraculously help one person eat while millions starve with no sign
of divine aid.
who dare give public thanks for small miracles are likely to become
“a hiss and byword” or, as Deut. 28:37 warns (NIV), “You
will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule
among all the peoples,” especially on the Bloggernacle, where
some LDS thinkers are horrified and appalled when others imply that
God could be so callous as to care about lost keys and kittens when
there are big problems in a world where terrorists rage, disease
ravishes, and Congress is in session again.
the Web, believers soon become trained to feel shame at God’s
tender little mercies, or even to become angry with those who express
gratitude for encounters with God’s love through small
a faith that urges us to recognize the hand of God in all things
& Covenants 59:21),
this is unfortunate, in my opinion. Others in the Church and beyond
are free to disagree, but I’d like to share some of my thoughts
on this issue and also on the complex problem of evil.
Bethlehem, Cana, and the Problem of Evil
story of Christ in the New Testament begins with His miraculous
birth, a small but important miracle for Christians that remains
completely unimpressive to skeptics since it surely looked like an
ordinary pregnancy and natural birth.
small miracle was accompanied with the horrific massacre of infants
in Bethlehem precipitated by Christ’s arrival, thanks to the
evil of one jealous king.
life of one infant was spared with a warning from God given through a
dream to a parent, a classic small miracle with large consequences,
while no timely warning came for the rest as far as we know. We see
that God was capable of sparing those lives, but apparently chose not
to. We are swiftly introduced to the problem of evil in a world
created by a loving God.
Messiah, whom we worship as the Creator of the world and Master of
all, came to earth as a mortal but also as Son of God. Three decades
after His miraculous birth, He began His formal ministry. His divine
status would be demonstrated with another miracle.
you could ask the Creator for any miracle, what would be on your
list? Perhaps the eradication of cancer, malaria, or any of several
dozen major diseases? Maybe the end of warfare? The elimination of
poverty? The freeing of all slaves?
are so many big issues that our minds might turn to. So what did
Christ do for the first big miracle of His ministry? The spotlight
turns to tiny Cana and a wedding feast, where the Creator of Heaven
and Earth revealed His divine power with a miracle not much grander
than helping someone find their lost keys: He alleviates a relatively
trivial beverage supply problem at the wedding party.
is Miracle One in the ministry of the Messiah? Millions were
struggling with poverty and undoubtedly starvation in various parts
of the globe, and certainly some children were hungry and
malnourished in the vicinity of Cana.
were suffering with disease, captivity, and grief of all kinds, yet
the first miracle alleviated none of these problems even on a local
scale. In the opening pages of the New Testament, the problem of evil
can become, for some, a travesty of divine indifference with a God
blind to the big problems of the community and the world.
New Testament begins with stories that we can easily ridicule as we
question God’s priorities and lack of sensitivity, just as we
do with modern small miracles involving car keys or the chance
finding of a quarter by a hungry medical student.
We Are All Statistics (Or, What Could Stop the Complaining?)
complaints about God’s neglect of suffering are
legitimate ones that need to be considered in any system espousing
the existence of a loving and all-powerful or even just very powerful
God. If God is capable of preventing suffering, why is there so much?
This world could be vastly better — so why isn’t it?
a thought experiment. Imagine a world in which your list of 50 or so
top problems have been addressed. Imagine a God who in your view is
vastly more intelligent (that is, He sees things your way) and
responds to your demands, reshaping the world, giving us a safer,
less painful existence.
more war, no more cancer, no more malaria, no more human trafficking,
no more volcanic eruptions or earthquakes, and no more crushing debt
incurred by corrupt politicians. Imagine airplanes and cars that
never crash, ships that never sink, and trains that never derail,
thanks to the infallible safety record provided by legions of unseen
angels watching over all of us.
terrorists and murderers are quickly exposed and stopped before they
do serious harm. There could still be free agency and challenges to
overcome that help us grow, but without all the blood, horror, and
senseless pain of innocents that we face now. Let’s imagine
such a world and then ask, would there still be cause for doubt and
imagine that under this new Omnipotent Care program, everyone is
essentially guaranteed a relatively healthy life with a minimum
lifespan of 80 years, with fully functioning limbs and eyes, joints
that function well, and good teeth that are free of cavities and
never need orthodontics. In this more progressive, compassionate
system, would there still be cause for complaint?
of the horror of the mortal world we live in is that we are all
statistics. With a little luck, I might even succeed in officially
modifying an LDS hymn to have the catchy title, “We Are All
Statistics Till the Conflict Is O’er” (including the
refrain, “Random are we! Random are we!”).
the role of chance and randomness in our lives is an important and
inevitable one in my opinion, even if God can guide us to find
meaning and apparent design in the random things we sometimes
the point: for every factor imaginable, there is a spectrum of
possible outcomes, some better than average and some worse than
average (occasionally much worse than average).
economic status, IQ, skin quality, height, shoe size — all can
have high variability due to combinations of chance, external factors
such as the actions of others, and the consequences of our own
a much more fortunate world that never knew and might not even be
able to imagine the horrors of the Holocaust or Hiroshima, those on
the unlucky end of the spectrum for other factors might still elicit
doubt and anger.
fortunate folks in this imagined world might well wonder how could a
merciful God allow so many hundreds of people to suffer from
alcoholism, rabies, or whatever ailments had not been completely
could also ask questions like, “How could a merciful God allow
my grandfather to die so early, barely 80 years old, robbing him of
decades of life?”
could a merciful God and an intelligent designer allow so many
teenagers to suffer with the shame of acne, and so many senior
citizens to suffer the humiliation of incontinence?” Or, with
perfect logic, “How could a merciful God allow so many people —
nearly 50% of humanity — to be below average economically?”
our new mortal world has, as long as there is mortality, there will
be death and sorrow, imperfection and pain. As long as there is any
human freedom of choice, there will be the tragedy of sin and the
painful consequences of error, even if great sins are miraculously
prevented or mitigated as early as possible to shield many innocents.
long as chance and choice exist, there will be a spectrum of
outcomes: some will be lucky, some will be unlucky; some will be
perpetrators, and some will be victims. We do not need to know of
genocide or mass slaughter from tsunamis to feel that evil actions
from humans or unpleasant accidents of nature are senseless and
unfair for victims.
the worst we ever learn of involves a few dozen lives or even a few
broken bones, we may still find cause to recoil at the randomness of
pain and the injustice that reigns in a world where we are all
statistics, and some of us are always on the unpleasant side of every
even your more sensitive, progressive God escape criticism in your
imagined new world?
The Small and Possibly Miraculous Tail
the distribution of outcomes possible in any real or imagined version
of mortality, some people will be extremely unfortunate, perhaps
rarely, and also rarely, some will be extremely fortunate. So
fortunate that rightly or wrongly we may attribute such fortune to
of the miracles humans report may be due to chance: perhaps those car
keys found after prayer would have been found anyway (often likely, I
would guess), or perhaps the illness that receded after a priesthood
blessing would have departed on its own (in many cases, of course).
a true story I reported at Mormanity, perhaps the cookies that a busy
mom felt impressed to make (with an unmistakable impression that was
specific: chocolate chip cookies, now!) and give to someone she
barely knew were just a matter of chance and had nothing to do with
the prayer of the depressed, tearful, exasperated recipient earlier
that day, uttering, “Dear God, right now I just need . . . I
just need some chocolate chip cookies.”
my own life, perhaps it was nothing but chance that we had a surprise
encounter of a needy young LDS woman lost in Hong Kong, just hours
after we put her name on the prayer roll of the temple there, having
no idea that she had come to Hong Kong that day on what would have
been a disastrous misadventure had we not found her. (See the story
Selina” at the Nauvoo Times
and also at
of us involved in that story saw it as a small miracle and dramatic
witness of God’s love for a troubled daughter, as pretty much
the only people in that huge city who knew her managed to stumble
into her “by accident” in a remote part of that huge city
shortly before she would lose her chance to get back to China without
it blind luck, but it is cause for rejoicing and gratitude, and
sharing it as evidence of a loving God is not inappropriate —
event though many lost young people have been far less fortunate, and
some may revile and justly wonder why God would reach out to Selina
while their child was lost.
nearly all matters in life, there is a spectrum of outcomes, where
miracles almost by definition are the exception, the outliers in the
vanishingly small tail on the fortunate side of the statistical
distribution of which we are all part.
miraculous in that small tail is often the rare and sometimes
singular exception. We have no claim on it, though we may hope and
pray. We have no cause to be angry with God when our lot is cast
somewhere else along the spectrum, unjust as it may seem.
we have the faith and patience to accept the miracles experienced by
others in spite of our loss. May we have the faith and patience to
bear their fortune without added bitterness or anger for our
rare small tail outcomes may be due to chance, but in the lives of
believers, they are sometimes perceived as so abundant and so rich in
kindness from a loving God that they are hard to dismiss as
accidents. But even if they are just lucky accidents, is not the
proper way of receiving them to be with gratitude?
a world where many of us feel that we have great cause to believe in
a Divine Creator and a loving God, is it not reasonable to accept
both miracles and lucky breaks with gratitude?
we are grateful for life itself, with all its opportunities and
challenges, its pains and sorrows, then should we not lovingly praise
our God for the good that we receive, even if it might sometimes just
us never attribute blessings and seeming miracles to our
righteousness or superiority, but let us gratefully recognize the
hand of God in all things when it looks like a fingerprint or two is
present, though sometimes the prints are whorls of chance.
a prayer seems answered, praise Him. If that which is lost is found
after prayer — a child, a passport, a set of keys, or a kitten,
praise Him. Maybe not on the Bloggernacle, and maybe not always in
Fast and Testimony meeting, recognizing that we may be misunderstood,
but receive these blessings with gratitude and not shame, and do not
feel that they may not ever be uttered to others.
addition to recognizing God’s hand in our lives and being
grateful for whatever miracles, large or small, we may experience,
let us recognize the pains and suffering of others and do what we can
to alleviate and bless.
God has helped you get a good job, wonderful! Now what are you doing
to help others with their careers? What are you doing to help the
poor in your midst and beyond? And what are you doing to magnify your
impact at work to create more opportunities and employment for
gratitude for miracles and gifts in our lives should make us all the
more aware of our statistically good fortune and the painful long
tail of less fortunate people among the rest of the spectrum, some of
whom we may be in a unique position to help.
see the hand of the Lord in all things is not just to see the gifts
that it extends in our direction, but also to see the direction that
the same divine hand may point out to us showing where we can go and
do good with the blessings we have received.
is a God who tells us that He causes the rain to fall upon the just
and the unjust — meaning we all will get some lucky blessings
and some unlucky setbacks, yet should not our hearts still remain
full of gratitude for the blessings we have?
you have been fasting for rain after drought and it rains at a choice
time, praise Him, though surely it was going to rain anyway, one day
or another. Meanwhile, should we not yearn for the welfare of others
whose needed rain has not yet come? When it rains and your crops need
water, praise Him — and think of others.
Defending the Offensive: Small Miracles in a World of Big Problems
my reading of scripture, the purpose of miracles is clearly not to
address our wish list of big things to change about mortality. Yes,
sometimes disease will be healed in an individual or sight restored,
while illness and physical handicaps remain in force across the
keys will be found while children remain lost or thousands are taken
away into permanent captivity. Miracles are the rare and exceptional
tool to facilitate faith of an individual or to facilitate events for
some specific purpose.
tend to be small and personal, and always a drop in the bucket
compared to the wish list of miracles any of us might have.
own testimony of God’s reality began with a 6-year-old child’s
prayer seeking God’s help to find the precious plastic
magnifying glass that Dad had loaned to me. I had looked everywhere
without success and needed it.
dad needed that 5-cent toy for his work, I thought, and I had lost
it. After praying as my mother had taught me, pleading for God’s
help, I got up off my knees and my eyes seemed to go straight toward
a middle drawer in my dresser. I rushed to it, open it, moved
something and there it was.
magnifying glass, found! That child felt that God has answered a
prayer miraculously, and that was the beginning of many personal
experiences in prayer. It was also the beginning of many personal
experiences with lost objects where things far more precious and more
worthy of prayer were not recovered, including some tragic losses
without easy fixes.
would be easy for me to wonder how God could so often not help me
find, recover, or repair things much more important than a worthless
magnifying glass, but I should instead praise Him for each kindness I
have received and do the best I can to cope with all the other times
where I suffer a fairly normal distribution of loss and pain in
one past post on Mormanity, I shared a story about a mother I know
who was staying at a friend’s home when she heard a voice say
“Run!” That helped her recognize her bold little toddler
was not at her side but in danger.
ran to find a stairway door had been opened by someone else and saw
that her wobbly little son, a boy with no respect for gravity, was
standing at the top, toes over the edge, ready to plunge forward
toward bare wooden stairs leading to a concrete basement floor. She
snatched him in time, courtesy of a tender mercy of God.
mentioned that we don’t know when and why these small miracles
come, and recognized that life is often filled with pain and sorrow
even for the best parents, but when the little miracles come, we
should rejoice for those who receive them.
story was somewhat personal, for we had a related experience with one
of our sons, but with no warning that we noticed, and no rescue in
time to prevent him from tumbling — we missed him by a fraction
of a second and watched him tumble while we were at a friend’s
was traumatic for us and we felt like the worst parents ever. Why did
that mother get help but not us? We are truly grateful for the mother
who was helped, while still feeling some pain for our different
outcome. The pain would have been vastly greater had our son perished
or suffered permanent loss.
I shared that story, I expected to get the response that I have often
received when referring to a miracle that someone experiences.
Skeptics will point to some of the tragedies that occur and insinuate
that that miracles can’t be real, otherwise why would God help
someone with something minor when such great sorrows and pains exist
in the world?
the response was more painful or bitter than I expected. I should
have anticipated some of the pain that might have been stirred up:
yet my son died. Am I to assume that I didn’t listen to the
Spirit in some way to save him? Or that Heavenly Father just didn’t
care enough to send any guidance?
to know Heavenly Father was more concerned about the possible broken
arm [for that child] than about my son getting the organ transplant
that would have saved his life.
like these are equivalent to a slap in the face for all of us who
have [unhappy] endings to our fairytales. It’s great that [one
child] wasn’t hurt…but surely you can see that what the
flipside of it implies?
I was so sorry to see these responses, possibly from fellow
Latter-day Saints who pray and seek the Spirit and the miracles of
God as much as any of us do. The loss of a child is one of the great
tragedies of mortality. There are no easy answers, except for the
far-off answer that comes through Christ and the hope of resurrection
it wrong to record and share the exceptional help that led to the
sparing of one child, knowing that others were not so lucky? Is it
really a slap in the face to many who mourn?
the many faithful Nephite wives and mothers whose husbands and sons
died in battle against the Lamanites, and the many modern wives and
mothers who face similar grief in this era of war, is the account of
the miraculous sparing of the 2,000-plus teenage warriors, the
converted “stripling warriors” of Lamanite ancestry in
the Book of Mormon, an insensitive blunder that should be excised
from scripture or at least no longer cited?
that story mean that God did not hear the prayer of Nephite mothers
and modern mothers and wives of all who fall in battle? Does it mean
that our Christians who fall in battle die for lack of faith in God?
Or is the story of the stripling warriors the rare, miraculous
exception with lessons for us to consider (parents matter, faith in
God matters, God can protect us miraculously, don’t be afraid
to take on great challenges, be courageous, etc.), but little reason
to expect the same miraculous outcome on demand?
a child is spared in war miraculously, as my father was several
times, give thanks to God, but recognize this as the exception, not
something promised to all who believe, or an indictment for those
with different results.
Mormon, the great warrior and prophet of God, would fall in battle,
one of the depressing statistics of Nephite destruction. Sooner or
later, in one way or another (often many ways), we are all
statistics, and somewhere along the way, some of those statistics
will look and feel like tragedies.
these tragedies, though, negate the reality of small or even large
miracles? Can God help someone by answering a prayer, healing an
illness, or helping a car to start, when many are about to die from
accidents, disease, or terrorism?
God unjust or unfair because He sometimes reaches down and lets the
current course of mortality be stayed for some purpose we cannot
understand but that some can and should accept with gratitude?
love is not a zero-sum game. His kindness to one person is not an
insult to another whose outcome is less fortunate. His love is not
less, His awareness of the others suffering is not diminished, His
participation in our sorrow and pain is not diminished, His eternal
plans and desires for the sufferer are no less glorious than for the
recipient of a temporary little miracle.
across the earth were blind or going blind 2,000 years ago when
Christ touched the eyes of one blind man to give him sight. Did God
love the others less than the one rare man who was healed?
maybe millions, across the earth were hungry or thirsty as He
attended a wedding feast in Cana and turned water into wine. If not
even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s awareness
(Matt. 10:29), we must understand that we, His children, are known,
noticed, and loved, regardless of what trials we must endure.
we be skeptical of God’s love or His miracles because their
more outward manifestations are not commonly and uniformly
distributed according to our sensibilities? Our lives appear as
statistics on numerous spectra, for we are inevitably part of the
statistics of mortality, sometimes fortunate, sometimes miraculously
blessed, but usually with many reasons to feel disappointment.
will leave all of us bitter and scarred if we cannot accept the
diversity of gifts, blessings, trials, lifespans, ancestries, and
genes that God lets us have.
is a theme that is thoughtfully considered in the first half of Dr.
Terryl Givens’ brilliant work, The
God Who Weeps.
I also have enjoyed the cogitations of C.S. Lewis on this topic in
Problem of Pain.
are some points that stand out in my mind regarding the LDS
are eternal beings, children of a loving Father in Heaven, who have
temporarily departed His presence to come to a painful mortal
testing ground. In this fleeting moment of mortality that we
agreed to take on, we must all be born and then die.
and pain, difficult as they are for us and those we love, are
ultimately swallowed up in the victory of Christ. We will all be
resurrected. We all have the opportunity to have the full blessings
of eternal life in the presence of God with unlimited hope and joy
through the power of Christ. There can be lasting pain and sorrow,
though, but God seeks to mitigate that by inviting all —
everyone who will — to receive His greatest eternal blessings.
No matter how bitter our pains here, after this fleeting moment of
mortality, Christ can wipe away all tears and bring us joy.
and pain are part of the journey. Death is not the ultimate
evil, but an essential part of our eternal progress.
journey here is difficult and fraught with challenges and opposition.
In many cases, those challenges can have a purpose. In general,
opposition in mortality is here for a purpose (2 Nephi 2).
and pain, sorrow and joy, the bitter and the sweet — it is in
coping with these opposites and opposition that we grow and learn.
The pains of mortality can have purpose in many cases, though
sometimes it seems senseless and beyond purpose.
not only know our pains, but participates in them. Our Father in
Heaven, as we read in the Book of Moses, astonished Enoch when Enoch
saw that God wept over the suffering of His children. He is the God
who weeps, who cares about our pains and our lasting, eternal
welfare more passionately that we can imagine.
sent His son Jesus Christ to take on all our suffering in some way in
His infinite Atonement, and Christ, like the father, fully knows how
to minister to us through His intensely painful knowledge of what we
commitment to our lasting, eternal happiness is so great that He
personally took on all our pains and all our guilt that He might
liberate us from death, sin, and sorrow.
is a God of mercy. In the end, tears are wiped away, life
restored, families reunited, and infinite blessings shared to the
degree we have been willing to accept them.
us to return to God and be more like Him, He necessarily gives us
the most wonderful and terrible gift of freedom, free will, the
ability to choose Him willingly or to deny Him, curse Him, and
destroy His most precious works. This freedom means that sin is
possible and victims of sin inevitable.
is a world filled with chance and randomness, causing righteous and
wicked to both suffer. Referring to some Galileans who had been
slaughtered by Pilate while seeking to worship God, Jesus said,
“Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the
Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but,
except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:
regarding 18 people who died in his area when a tower in Siloam fell,
he said, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that
dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall
all likewise perish” (Luke 13: 4-5).
fall, children fall, and people die, regardless of who is righteous
and who is not. It is not death but rebellion against God that is the
sometimes alleviates our suffering and our problems miraculously.
More generally, though, we are left here in mortality as free
agents, whom He calls to be agents for Him to love one another and
alleviate suffering. He calls us to mourn with those that mourn, to
comfort those in need of comfort, and to follow the example of His
son in reaching out to help the sick, the needy, and the hungry.
we respond to the problems of hunger, poverty, illness, and suffering
in our midst is intimately tied to our status before Him and the
exercise of our faith.
righteous sometimes experience miracles, but some of the most
painful tragedies occur to the most righteous.
Seth was murdered, and loving Adam and Eve grieved over the spiritual
loss of Cain. Lehi and Sariah suffered years of sorrow and grief with
the rebellion of the oldest sons, and many privations during their
and Amulek suffered in prison, and then watched in horror as
righteous women and children, their converts, were thrown into the
flames to suffer and die. And the converted Lamanites who refused to
take up weapons again would die by the hundreds, defenseless, as they
were attacked by their brethren, dying in the attitude of praising
they and their loved ones faced certain death, in the midst of this
violent and bloody tragedy, they turned their hearts to God with
gratitude, not bitterness for their loss nor anger at the injustice
in not sparing them. Praising God as the sword (or macahuitl)
came down upon them!
weep at this example and doubt that my faith would be this great —
yet I have cause every bit as great as theirs to praise God for what
He has given me and done for me, in spite of my pains and loss.
God has blessed you with an awareness of the suffering of others in
this painful mortal realm, rather than cursing or denying God, use
that knowledge and the talents you are blessed with to help alleviate
these problems and be part of the divine solution.
so doing, if you will turn to God and seek His help in doing good, I
believe you will begin to experience the small and sometimes big
miracles that will help you to do more good than you imagined and
will strengthen your faith, giving you reserves to draw upon when it
is your turn to be on the painfully unpleasant side of some of the
statistical distributions of mortality.
all will have our challenges and moments of senseless pain, but there
is One whose all-conquering love can, in the end, give lasting sense
to all that we are and have gone through as he wipes away our tears
and helps us and those we love become one with Him.
cannot expect God’s miracles when we want them. We have no
basis to demand them by right. But His love is no less, His presence
no more remote, for the child that dies than for the one that is
spared, for His work is not about keeping us wrapped up in our mortal
shells and the little things of earth life, but in our ultimate
destiny in His endless presence.
timetable and plans for each of us take us through wildly different
routes in our journeys. Some routes are tragic and seem senselessly
painful, especially when the cruelty of man is involved — a
consequence of that terrible gift of freedom, without which we could
not fully choose goodness and light to become like Him, though some
instead choose to become devils.
we are also promised that the Atonement of Christ is sufficient and
in the end, as we come into His presence, all tears can be wiped
he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over
all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away
tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take
away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for
him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him,
we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25: 7-9)
we only understood more and saw more clearly, we might recognize the
hand of God in numerous things around us and rejoice more fully in
the miracles of life, of love, of beauty, and of families. We might
recognize small or even great miracles even in the painful trials he
allows us to experience, some of which may have been tailored for us
in His grace. We may be blind to most of the miracles that make our
lives, but that should not make us doubt or even be bitter when His
kindness is more obvious to some.
God for each child spared and for each parent given miraculous
guidance. Weep for the larger number who are not spared. Do our best
to keep doors to danger closed and children close enough to us that
we will not need an angel’s voice to best fulfill our duties.
may we never judge or condemn those who are not the recipients of
yearned-for miracles, or begrudge those who are.
we must not lose our bearings and sail away from God because we
journey in a world where oceans of trouble and islands of miracles
coexist on a map wildly unlike what we would draw if we were the
us learn to understand the real map for this mortal landscape and
understand its relationship to other maps, especially those that God
sees including what came before and what comes after this temporary,
painful, and sometimes grisly mortal world, which can nonetheless be
a place of remarkable beauty, joy, delight, and tender mercies
expressed sometimes as rare but real small miracles from God.
partial response only scratches the surface of the problem of evil
and pain in the world, but the eternal perspectives offered through
the Church help. That includes knowledge of our premortal existence,
the purposes of mortality, the eternal ends for which we and this
mortal journey were created, and the endless healing mercy of Christ,
whose ministry extends beyond mortality so that the good news of the
Gospel and all its blessings are made available to all who have
response to a related post at Mormanity, Jonathan Cavender offered a
have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this, and I have
found that the two most convincing things that I have read on the
subject are from C. S. Lewis and from Charles Dickens.
S. Lewis points out that God has the capacity to accomplish any and
all of His works through naturalistic means — he is the great
Architect of mortality and by placing the right people in the right
places, His work ultimately becomes complete.
He needs perform no miracle to accomplish any task. The wine could
have been cheaper (and thus more bought), but instead the Lord turned
water into wine.
argues that because He could accomplish His work without miraculous
means, the miracles of God are never about the things getting done.
If the Lord cared about us finding our keys, He could have helped us
to leave them somewhere we wouldn’t have lost them. Whenever
there is a miraculous event, it is to teach us (and only to teach
is why there is no contradiction between the minor miracles —
the tender mercies of the Lord — and the absence of the grand
miracles. The purpose of the minor miracle is not to accomplish the
minor result, but to let us know that He is there and to inspire us
to follow Him.
on the other hand, spoke of local charity and telescopic charity. He
wrote on how some people focus on some distant cause, and devote
their charitable impulses there while their families and friends
suffer. He wrote that when people become too focused on telescopic
charity, they neglect actual charity towards those they can help.
my experience, the Lord does very little work “telescopically.”
He wants to develop a personal relationship with each one of us, and
He accomplishes that better by answering prayers about lost keys than
answering prayers about world peace. He doesn’t use miracles to
change the world, he shows us miracles to teach us about Him and draw
us to live like Him, and we are to change our lives and over time
that will change the world.
especially liked the perspective drawn from C.S. Lewis. If the
primary or sole purpose of readily detectable miracles is to
strengthen a relationship in some way with an individual, then it
makes sense that the presence of identifiable miracles would be
confined to small realms involving one or just a few individuals at a
also important to remember that God’s care for us is not
expressed in statistics such as our life span, our wealth, or the
number of days without pain.
His loving eternal objectives for us naturally trump all the mortal
outcomes we’d like to see, His kindness can still be manifest
here in many ways, even in the midst of disaster and grief, as the
survivors of the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies attested, and
as many survivors of lengthy, tragic ordeals have experienced.
who didn’t survive so long might have gotten the better deal,
actually. Again, death is essential for all of us and is not the
ultimate tragedy, nor is the timing of our death a meaningful measure
for the value of our life or the love that God has for us.
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.