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Have a little faith

Dee Tian | Sunday, November 13, 2011

It seems now-a-days, everywhere we turn we see or hear of suffering and evil. I am filled with disgust and anger as I read the grand jury’s report of the Penn State scandal. I am confused and hurt when my friends and family face hardships that seem unfair.

How could an all-loving God allow these things to happen?

I don’t pretend to have an answer for Mackie’s Problem of Evil, nor do I know how to reconcile humans beings’ free will and God’s omniscience (after all, philosophers and theologians much smarter than I have debated these for decades, to no avail).

However, in the risk of sounding cliché, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Our God is not one of randomness and indifference; he has a plan for each of us, and the purpose we serve is one greater than we can wrap our minds around.

As a high school senior, I had a 3.9 GPA, was VP of many important extracurricular clubs and volunteered in community service regularly. As an entirely too prideful person who rarely failed at anything, I applied to only Ivy League colleges and “reach schools” (my academic counselor was not pleased).

Imagine my surprise when I received one wait-list letter after another. UPenn was my dream school, with the No. 1 undergraduate business program in the nation, and they flat out turned me down. I was humiliated, confounded and angry. “Why God,” I asked, “what did I do to deserve this? Hadn’t I worked hard? Didn’t I deserve this?”

We all know people who have suffered, in our opinions, unjustly. Why was that caring aunt diagnosed with cancer at the youthful age of 30? How could that faithful friend end up a victim of sexual abuse? We don’t know these answers and we are often filled with bitterness and anger.

From personal experience, I can say that even the toughest times of my life have yielded some sort of positive result. When I endured a horrible break up (one that I thought I could literally never get over), I was able to better understand the pain of friends who later went through similar situations and was able to better help and comfort them.

In suffering, we are better able to carry each other’s crosses — to be there for one another. If I had never suffered through a situation, how could I truly comprehend what others in similar shoes felt?

In suffering, we are also better able to see our own vulnerability and weaknesses, and our need for God. A wise person once told me we feel closest to God in times of extremes — either extreme joy or extreme sorrow. One of my favorite songs, Laura Story’s “Blessings,” says the following:

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops, what if Your healing comes through tears? / And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? / What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life / Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy? / And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights / Are Your mercies in disguise?”

Even as the smartest animals on this planet, we still do not have the answers. Skepticism will argue that reason has led brilliant thinkers, beginning at the same premises, to completely different answers. We are limited in our understanding.

As for my college application fiasco, I applied to Notre Dame on a whim.

I never would I have guessed that this school would become my second home, the place where I would meet my dearest friends and soul mates, not to mention strip Wharton of the No. 1 Business School title (ha!). Looking back, it all makes sense now. I am ever grateful that I was rejected from Wharton and co., only to be accepted by the only place that really matters. Everything happens for a reason.

So I challenge you (although much easier said than done) in times of suffering and pain … have a little faith.

Dee Tian is a senior marketing major with minors in philosophy and anthropology. She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.