Can we reconcile the existence of a merciful God with the problem of pain in the world?

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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. Guru Arjan Sahib Ji says:

ਸਲੋਕ ਮ: ੫ ॥ ਫਰੀਦਾ ਭੂਮਿ ਰੰਗਾਵਲੀ ਮੰਝਿ ਵਿਸੂਲਾ ਬਾਗੁ ॥
ਜੋ ਨਰ ਪੀਰਿ ਨਿਵਾਜਿਆ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਅੰਚ ਨ ਲਾਗ ॥੧॥
“Shalok, Fifth Mehl: Fareed, this world is beautiful, but there is a thorny garden within it.
Those who are blessed by their spiritual teacher are not even scratched. ||1||”
(Ang 966)

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.

Sikhi believes in a just, and merciful God. God does not, on His own cause suffering:

ਸਰਬ ਕਰਤਬ ਮਮੰ ਕਰਤਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲੇਪ ਛੇਪ ਨ ਲਿਪ੍ਯ੍ਯਤੇ ॥੩੮॥
“The Creator of all is the Creator of me as well. O Nanak, no blame or stain sticks to Him. ||38||
(Ang 1357)

All things work under His las, 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 Sahib Ji,

ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥
“Suffering is the medicine, and pleasure the disease, because where there is pleasure, there is no desire for God.”
(Ang 469)

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.

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