Why does God let it happen?

It is sometimes thought that while life could be wonderful, mankind is just too flawed, corrupt or generally inept; or that the world we’ve built is essentially broken, and the best we can do is struggle for whatever mote of peace we’re able to find.

In this picture of the world, God’s Messengers are seen as agents of a merciful, but distant Entity, sent to help us fix what our sins has wrought. But with time, even the institutions They bring are perverted by man. Evil runs rampant, the innocent are oppressed, sorrow and hardship afflict the least deserving, and where is God? Why aren’t His Messengers a bit more effective, so all this heartache can end at least? Why does God let it all happen?

In the mystical Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, we find indications that not everything is as it seems: that there is a deep perfection in the scheme of the world, even with its wars and venomous anger. It suggests we might “attain a station wherein one seeth no distinction amongst His creatures and findeth no flaw in the creation of the heavens and the earth.”[1]; that a wayfarer on the path of God “seeth in the fashionings of the True One nothing save clear providence, and at every moment saith: ‘No defect canst thou see in the creation of the God of Mercy: Repeat the gaze: Seest thou a single flaw?’[2]”[3]

“O Fleeting Shadow! Pass beyond the baser stages of doubt and rise to the exalted heights of certainty. Open the eye of truth, that thou mayest behold the veilless Beauty and exclaim: Hallowed be the Lord, the most excellent of all creators!”[5]

To make sense of these statements, it is necessary to reorient our thinking about the purpose of this life. If we imagine its aim to be our personal happiness and joy, it is hard not to see the world as a miserable joke for all but the favored few. However, this perspective fails to make sense of existence because it chooses a wrong center: human beings. It revolves the Sun of Truth around man’s sense of well-being, and diminishes virtue by favoring more immediate concerns, such as health and long-life.

If we correct this perspective, and interpret our motions in reference to a central Sun, we may find that creation was purpose-built with a singular objective: for mankind to truly recognize the Manifestations of God, a recognition that only begins with accepting their Mission and has no end in a person’s life. We are most sensitive to light when plunged in darkness, and our heart is attuned to even minute joys when sadness abounds. How can a man know God, if real knowledge is only gained through contrast? In a way, this existence is as “not God” as it is possible to be, so that with parched and thirsty lips we may drink one drop of the Divine Elixir – the Writings of His Holy Ones – and recognize Its savor in an instant.

Suffering is very real, but against eternal life it is unreal. None of us can remember the pains we suffered as infants; why should our souls remember the sorrows of this brief existence across eternity? We have a precious chance in this life to know and to worship God, based entirely on our faith and our choosing. There is a beauty and merit to this that will never, ever come again. As Rumi wrote, “Don’t seek the water; increase your thirst.”

Maybe paradise is not something you enter after you die; maybe paradise is what you discover once you see the world aright.

Footnotes: [1] Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p.6

[2] Qur’án 67:3

[3] Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p.12

[4] Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, p.25