Q23. Can we reconcile the existence of a merciful God with the problem of pain in the world?
Undoubtedly, the world is full of evil and misery. Look at the many wars, slave-raids, tortures, concentration camps, atomic attacks. Do they not show that man, without a sound moral basis is worse than a wild beast?
The problems of pain and suffering seems to be rooted in creation itself. We find one species of animal or fish feeding on another. Think of the epidemics and plagues. Everything is subject to disease and decay. Earthquake are due to a ‘fault’ in the earth’s crust. These, in addition to the eruption of volcanoes, cause a great loss of human life and property. Some calamities like famine and floods can be prevented by human ingenuity. We do not blame God for them.
On the other hand, the world contains many lovely things: sunshine, flowers and fruits. The picnic spots in the hills, the splendor of the sunrise and sunset show that this world is full of beauty. Farid said, “The world is a beautiful garden.”
God’s purpose in creating the universe is to watch His play, to see how men and women behave in different circumstances. He has given man reason and freedom. Man may do good or evil. All his acts are recorded and he gets rewarded or punished accordingly.
Sikhism believes in a just, and merciful God. God does not, on His own cause suffering: “The Creator takes no blame to Himself.” All things work under His law, He does not undermine His own law by making exceptions. Man sows the seed of action and gets the fruit accordingly. God is like a supreme judge who deals with people according to their deserts. It is also His privilege to pardon an erring but repentful soul. A deep study of the problem of pain makes us feel that pain has a good and useful purpose to serve. It draws out great kindness and compassion in this hard world. Pain is also a test, an ordeal, to assess man’s conviction and courage. According to Guru Nanak, “Pain is a remedy, and pleasure the disease.” Physically, pain is an index of ill-health, a kind of alarm-bell. When you feel physical pain you consult the doctor. Why not also do so for spiritual pain? God gives us timely warning through our conscience. Our Guru is the Doctor for these pains.