I am an A-Level Religious Studies student. I have been studying the Problem of Evil and Suffering as part of the course, and did my mock exam on Friday. A day after the funeral of my Uncle, who died from a very rare form of terminal cancer.
I wrote partly about Irenaeus' Theodicy. He says that suffering is a vital part of God's plan for us. We are born in the image of God (Imago Dei) but have to grow into the likeness of God. Part of the way we do this is through experiencing evil and suffering. The philosopher Swinburne said that this is not a 'toy world' where everyone can always make perfect choices, but a real world where people are faced with real challenges in order to grow and develop as people.
I agree with this. I think grief and pain and agony are the essence of what it means to be human. I have just experienced my first taste of this, and it is horrible. It is hard and it is painful and I have only just begun a life where people I love will die and get ill and I will have to cope with it. But isn't that the point of life?
If I never experience the grief of losing a loved one, then I will never have experienced them in the first place. In the fifth Harry Potter book, Harry rages against Dumbledore after Sirius' death. Dumbledore replies that in feeling something that much, Harry is growing into a man. He says that this pain is being human.
This thought does not really help when you are watching someone you have known all your life disappear behind a velvet curtain. At that moment of course it doesn't help. Of course I thought that God was cruel and hateful and that he didn't care. But the next day I sat in my exam and I wrote about how I agreed with Irenaeus, how I thought that in order to become human we needed to feel the sting of evil and suffering. That's the point, I said. And really, I suppose that it is.