While a lovely sentiment, the notion that all things work together for good initially strikes us as counter intuitive, naïve and nonsensical. WWII did not benefit those who died in the Nazi ovens. Nine eleven did not help those who were slain in the Twin Towers. And given our reluctance to pass meaningful gun control, the Vegas Massacre does not bode well for the next victims of gun violence. It may be more accurate to say that some clouds may have a silver lining, but only for those lucky enough survive the storm.
Like the protagonist in “The Shack”, who lost his daughter to a serial killer, we cannot explain the will of God. How can an all benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent deity tolerate evil, especially when he can so easily eliminate it? Why would the Divine create Lucifer knowing all the time what Satan would do and become?
Why did God tempt Adam and Eve with fruit from the tree of wisdom and then punish them for a decision he knew they would make? And what benevolent deity would deny his children knowledge of the difference between good and evil? How can we possibly choose the light without knowledge of the dark? Ironically, but for this ‘original sin’ none of us would be here.
Still, there is much to be said for putting a positive spin on life. Experience would be unbearable without hope and a belief in a higher purpose.
The Mount Sinai, School of Medicine studied 750 Vietnam Veterans who spent six to eight years as prisoners of war. The study found that despite their suffering or perhaps because of it, these veterans did not exhibit the normal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other long-term emotional injury. Social support, the existence of positive role models, the proper training and instruction, a sense of humor, altruism, spirituality, the ability to face one’s fears, a moral compass and a sense of purpose allowed these veterans to make peace with if not transcend their suffering.
Pessimism, negativity and a sense of futility/fatality have the opposite effect. This is true even for those who have reason to smile. A University of Michigan study of ninety-nine graduates of Harvard University, none of which were prisoners of war, found that … the pessimist had significantly poorer health than did those with an optimistic view of life.” Trista Sutter, “Happily Ever After”, Da Capo Press, 2013, p.195-196.
Of course, much depends upon how we deal with adversity. We can decide to either give up or push through. We can choose to see our challenges as a curse or a blessing. The choice is ours.
If however, we choose the latter and meet our difficulties with grit and determination, the benefits are boundless. Pushing through hard times builds bone and sinew. It separates friend from foe and enlightens us by revealing our strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, adversity helps us find purpose and meaning.
So, while life may be dark and unfair, it is far better to believe that all things do indeed work together for good rather than the opposite. As someone once said, “I will love the light for it shows me the way. Yet, I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” Id.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum