I just saw something on the blog of someone I know who is losing her religious faith a story about a child who was mauled by a mountain lion and severely injured, which, it was argued, is evidence against the existence of God.  The funny thing is, with one slight change, the story could be used on a religious website to argue for the existence of God.  The change, obviously, is to focus on the miraculous survival of the child rather than the fact that she was injured in the first place.

I don’t really want to get into a debate about the existence or non-existence of God.  I know what I believe and why and don’t have much interest in debating the issue.  I’m not a good debater and wouldn’t do my beliefs justice; anyway, debating anything doesn’t interest me much.  I don’t have an argumentative personality.  In fact, argument tends to upset me and I avoid it.  But I want to flag up something I noticed about myself, a point of psychology rather than theology.

Intellectually, I accept that my suffering (depression, loneliness, anxiety etc.) could have meaning and purpose.  It’s not actually that hard to think of reasons that could explain it.  But I find it very hard to engage emotionally with that and because I can’t engage emotionally with it, I find it very hard to internalise it and stay inspired to keep going.  As I’ve mentioned, all my religious activities (prayer, Torah study, good deeds, hitbodedut) are suffering at the moment.  I’m not doing much religiously at all.  That’s partly due to lack of energy, concentration and motivation directly from the depression, but also because of my irrational, but deep-seated, feeling that HaShem (God) hates me and wants me to suffer out of anger, hatred and even spite.  Intellectually, I think this is nonsense, but our emotional brains are older and stronger than our rational brains and they tend to win.  As the rabbi of my shul (synagogue) said to me, I won’t experience simcha shel mitzvah (the joy of performing the commandments) until I’m over my depression.  Of course, at the moment it looks like I will never be over the depression, which takes me back to “God hates me” even though He could be storing up infinite reward to recompense me for my suffering, in this world or the next.

What matters to me is not the philosophical issue of whether God exists; as I said, I think, on balance, that He does, but even if He doesn’t, the issue doesn’t interest me that much these days.  What matters to me is finding a way to function and, on some level, to find joy in life despite the suffering that seems to be a fixture.  I don’t know how to do that (yet?).

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4 thoughts on “Suffering

  1. I didn’t mention, but the mother of the child said that she did consider that her child’s survival could have been evidence of God, but she looked at the fact that many children (and adults) don’t survive, so we can’t have it both ways and remain intellectually honest. There is a lot of suffering in the world. It no longer makes sense to me that a holy, benevolent God would allow such pain and evil. It just doesn’t add up, in my opinion.

    I don’t like to debate, either. I’m not good at it, for one thing. Others seem to know their facts so much better than I do, and I get too stressed out when debates turn ugly.

    I’m concerned about your continued depression. If you ever have serious suicidal thoughts, please reach out–to someone locally, your readers, an organization.

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    1. Yes, I’m not keen on those types of stories for that reason.

      Thanks for your concern, but my depression has been around for fifteen or twenty years, so I don’t really expect it to get much worse (or better) any time soon. I came to the conclusion quite a while ago that I wouldn’t kill myself, partly to avoid hurting my parents, partly because I’m terrified of making a failed suicide attempt and ending up with permanent physical injuries. That said, I’m slightly apprehensive about my parents going away next week as I’ll be in the house by myself, particularly after my work contract ends next Thursday.

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      1. I feel the same way. It would hurt my friends and family too much. I can vividly imagine their reactions, and I just can’t do that to them.

        Next week sounds like time for a Dr. Who watching marathon. 🙂

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        1. It’s funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) that I can’t really imagine my friends being upset by my death. This despite the fact that people have sometimes contacted me to say they’re worried about me based on stuff I write online. I can imagine my parents and I guess my sister being upset, but not anyone else. And I know that’s wrong and irrational!

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