Let me preface this post with a little background information. I was raised Christian, in the Methodist church. My grandmother on my mom’s side was a Mennonite, and my father’s dad was a minister. Religion and spirituality have always been an important cornerstone of my family, but never at the expense of humanity. I was taught that helping others is the most important thing we can do with our time here on earth. Religion isn’t about condemning others; it’s about leading by example, and supporting others through the good times and the bad.
That being said, I’ve been struggling a lot with religion over the past few years. I’ve been studying sociology, which has opened my eyes to the vast inequality and greed that exists in the world. I have learned about pain, discrimination, hatred, and the sheer lack of opportunity available to groups of individuals. Mostly, I have learned that the vast majority of individuals are painfully unaware of this fact. When people close their eyes to others’ suffering, there is no way that change can occur. I have become disheartened by the lack of knowledge, lack of curiosity, and lack of compassion in the society around me. This disappointment has shaken me to the core, making me question: How could any God that I believe in allow such pain and suffering to continue?
I recently learned that I am not alone in my doubt. When I was visiting my sister a few weeks ago, we were discussing her work. She is a nurse in the E.R. She discussed several heartbreaking cases with me, and expressed concern at the number of patients she receives that are addicted to drugs. At one point in our discussion, she exclaimed in an exasperated tone, “Why would God create substances that can make people so addicted to them?” Her words stuck with me. Though her question came from her own experience, they seemed to echo the question that had been weighing down on me for years.
I’ve spent a lot of time being angry. And I’ve directed much of this anger at God. How? Why? How can you allow such suffering? Why am I so blessed? Instead of feeling grateful for the many amazing things I have experienced in my life, I have felt guilty—that others were not in similar situations as me. That no matter how hard they worked, they will most likely never be able to achieve my same successes, through no fault of their own. This mixture of guilt and anger is toxic. It creates a sense of hopelessness, a lack of motivation, and an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and despair.
“Why would God create substances that can make people so addicted to them?” For weeks I tried to forget about it, but it just wouldn’t go away. This nagging question in the back of my mind. “Why?” And suddenly it hit me. God didn’t create these substances. We did. Human greed did. The most addicting drugs were created by humans. Who were trying to take their high to the next level. Who were trying to make money off the addiction of others. Who wanted to become rich. Famous. Powerful. God didn’t create these drugs, nor did God create inequality. Humans did. And if humans created these things, they can also unmake these things! And for the first time in years, I felt hope. Hope that things could change.
I’m not saying that all of my questions were answered. Or that I’m not still angry with God. But I realize that we need hard times in order to appreciate the good times. I know that God created free will. Because while forcing people to love you and to always be happy may be possible, it would not be genuine. It would be quite a lonely eternity. Allowing people to choose to love you—to make their own mistakes—that’s what love is all about. So God gave us free will, and we have abused it. We have caused pain and suffering on others. We have created inequality, greed, addiction, and pain. But if we have created these things, we have the ability to unmake them as well. We have the power to love others, to heal them, to support them, to give second chances, to forgive.
I’m not naive. I know this road won’t be easy. We certainly cannot right every wrong we have committed in my lifetime, but we can take a step toward forgiveness. And slowly, together, we can work for a more equal world.