April 8, 2022

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Show God is with you, bring more light and love into the world

Richard Etienne I recently heard in a homily “to have faith in God is to have God with you,” the idea of faith meaning that we acknowledge God is always with us in every situation on our earthly journey. For me, this is a wonderful way of looking at faith!

The word “Emmanuel” is translated “God with us.” It encapsulates this concept. The homilist went on to say that faith does not seek exemptions from troubled times and frustrations; rather, it means being drawn deeper and closer to Jesus through those experiences.

There is an age-old dilemma in the question, Why do bad things happen to good people? There are many books dedicated to this query of how we reconcile human suffering with a loving God. Through time, it has become my belief that much of the suffering in history has been allowed only because God offers each of us free will in our decision making, choices between good and evil.

One of the most dramatic examples of this was the endless suffering that resulted from Adolph Hitler’s choices as he ascended to greater power in Nazi Germany. Additionally, the exercise of free will by others around Hitler, who colluded with his evil schemes, contributed to the suffering of millions.

Could God not step in and stop the avalanche of destructive decisions we witness each day, including Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine? I believe God will not intervene in many circumstances if each person involved is exercising their free will to choose his or her path.

With regard to the issue of suffering, it has been my experience that God doesn’t make people suffer as much as our Creator suffers with those who are suffering. It appears that God doesn’t force any of us to choose loving responses over more destructive options.

The psalmist says, “I bless the Lord who counsels me. … I keep the Lord always before me” (Ps 16:7-8).

And what is the reward of those who seek the Lord’s counsel? “You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever” (Ps 16:11).

What is God asking you to choose to bring more light and love into the world and reduce the suffering of others? Can you take a few moments to sit quietly and listen for guidance from the one who always chooses a path to life?

(Richard Etienne has a degree in theology from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad and resides in Newburgh, Ind.)

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