The Ultimate Spiritual Hang-Up

Why does God allow evil, suffering, tragedy and other assorted bad things happen to good people? According to the Centers for Disease Control, during 2002, there were approximately; 28,000 infants deaths, 17,000 homicides and 100,000 accidental deaths. Officially, 2,986 innocent people were killed by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. If you’ve allowed your spiritual growth to be hampered or stopped because you can’t reconcile the question of how an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can permit these to happen, then you’re suffering from what I call the ultimate spiritual hang-up.


What’s a spiritual hang-up? Well, first, in general, a hang-up is something that keeps you stuck and prevents further progress. Examples of physical objects that get hung-up include a record that skips (remember LP’s?), computers that “freeze up” and a car that won’t “turn over”. A spiritual hang-up is an attitude, belief or thought than hinders your spiritual development. For example, you may believe that that there are stupid, negative and evil ideas in some of the world’s Holy Books. You might feel that there are stupid, negative and evil people who are, or were, leaders of the world’s major religions. You might think that religions are useless because the people who go to Church, synagogue, mosque, etc. are the very same people who do bad things in the world. These spiritual hang-ups may thwart your spirituality; however, they may be overcome or at least put aside as you also recognize that there are loving, positive and healing messages in the Holy Books, there are may religious leaders, past and present, who have done constructive things in the world and many worshippers have become better people by attending services.

The Ultimate

This “how-can-God-allow” question is the ultimate spiritual hang-up because, with it, you have a greater chance of completely closing off the source - God - and the resulting idea of the inner divinity that’s within you (that is you). The confusion over this question can totally block off any further evidence and understanding of a loving God. It locks you into limited, concrete thinking when the idea and concept of God requires broader, abstract thinking. The limiting line of reasoning goes like this; God is suppose to be omniscient, omnipotent and loving however terrible things happen to innocent people, therefore God must be “allowing” it otherwise He/She/It would use Their power to stop it, since it’s not stopped He/She/It must not care or doesn’t exist, either way, all praying, worshiping and believing is worthless so I’m not going to bother.

Types of Tragedy

To answer the question “how can God permit (fill in the blank)?”, we have to start by recognizing three types of tragedy; man made, mysterious, and innocent bystander.
  1. Man-made tragedies are when a person or a group hurts, kills, steals, rapes another person or group.
  2. Mysterious tragedies are those that seem to have no explanation or cause and effect completely innocent people. Examples of this include infant death, disease and handicap and the sudden illness or death of a relatively young person.
  3. The innocent bystander tragedy includes the illness or death of innocent people during war, climatic events (e.g. earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc.) and major catastrophes (e.g. Titanic, Hindenburg).

How Can God Allow Pain, Tragedy, Suffering and Evil?

With this background we can now address the specific question of “how can God let these tragedies happen?” First, God “allows” the man-made tragedies to occur because they are built into the fundamental structure of how we are created and put on this earth and they are one of the main methods used to increase our understanding of life. To fully explain this, permit me to give a quick meaning-of-life summary. We have two selves; a divine self and a human self. The divine self is abstract, impersonal and detached. The human self is concrete, self-centered and attached. The divine self is following the command of God to redeem the physical, emotional and mental planes of the world. It does this by investing itself in this very material and thereby incarnating in the earth plane. The issue is that this physical, emotional and mental material has a life of its own and it, rightly so, seeks greater comfort, security, pleasure and self-preservation, while avoiding pain, and all with the least possible effort. The divine self works gently “behind the scenes” working to raise and refine the quality of the material it is incarnated in so that eventually the human self is responsive to the divine self. The divine self intends to express its divinity, namely, love, joy, peace, wisdom, compassion, goodwill and vitality, through the human self and thereby redeem the world and fulfill God’s plan.
When a person or a group hurts, kills, steals, rapes another person or group the lower, human self of the aggressor has a very limited view of life and is simply looking for greater comfort, security, pleasure and self-preservation, while avoiding pain. From simple muggings and assaults to the extreme acts of Hitler and Osama bin Laden, all aggressors are acting in their own interests and desires however misguided and ignorant. The divine self of each aggressor has not been able to turn the lower self around to see life from a broader perspective. However the divine self retains the lessons learned during an incarnation and applies them to the next incarnation thereby increasing its ability to take command of the human self. This spiritual evolution is all a part of God’s unfolding plan and these man-made tragedies are to be seen in a wider perspective and are not to be taken personally.
Next, God allows the mysterious tragedies, however difficult to endure, because they are also opportunities for a greater understanding of life but they also have a better ability to facilitate the greater expression of a particular aspect of divinity. For example, being born or becoming blind, deaf, handicapped, or deformed are heightened opportunities to perfect the expression of strength, courage, endurance, perseverance and optimism (did you know Helen Keller wrote a book title Optimism?). Similarly, pre-mature diseases help to increase these and other divine ideals and they also help us realize mistakes in our self-expression. This later point is explained by Edward Bach, the creator of the Bach Flower Remedies, in his 1931 book “Heal Thyself – An Explanation of the Real Cause and Cure of Disease”;

“Disease is in itself beneficent, and has for its object the bringing back of the personality to the Divine will of the Soul; and thus we can see that it is both preventable and avoidable, since if we could only realize for ourselves the mistakes we are making and correct these by spiritual means there could be no need for the severe lessons of suffering. Every opportunity is given us by the Divine Power to mend our ways before, as a last resort, pain and suffering have to be applied. It may not be the errors of this life, this day at school, which we are combating; and although we in our physical minds may not be conscious of the reasons of our suffering, which may to us appear cruel and without reason, yet our Souls (which are ourselves) know the full purpose and are guiding us to our best advantage. Nevertheless, understanding and correction of our errors would shorten our illness and bring us back to health. Knowledge of the Soul’s purpose and acquiescence in that knowledge means the relief of earthly suffering and distress, and leaves us free to develop our evolution in joy and happiness.”

Finally, God allows the innocent bystander tragedies because they are part of the larger growth and development of humanity. This type of tragedy differs from the two above in that the victim does not go through any obvious period of growth and learning. However it’s important to remember that the body of humanity is also working on increasing its ability to express divinity. Wars, climatic events and other catastrophes are opportunities for humanity to correct its mistakes and express greater love, compassion, peace, wisdom, forgiveness and tolerance. The individual victims of these events who either die or are injured play a heroic part in the unfolding of the divine within mankind.


God allows pain, suffering, tragedy and evil simply because it’s a part of His Divine Plan for increasing divinity and thereby redeeming and refining this world. To understand this Plan, we need increase our wisdom and understand and place all tragedy into a larger perspective. Tragedies need to be recognized as opportunities for growth.
A critic may say that I’ve just gone through a worthless, long exercise since I’ve only managed to give God all the credit for the good events of life and no blame for the bad. I would respond with a brief passage from Alexander Pope’s poem “An Essay on Man”,

All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:

And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is Right.

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