Suffering and Death


My 85 year old dad suffered severely for 2 months before he died. He was an Episcopal priest for over 50 years. I prayed for the pain to be given to me so that he could at least be comfortable if he was going to leave me. I can't help but wander why God allowed him to suffer before taking him. Its hard to let him go when I think about his pain. I want God to let me know how he is doing. I still worry about him, even in the afterlife.

—Asha Rodriguez, United States


The paradox of reconciliing the existence and goodness of God and His creation with the existence of suffering is one of mankind’s greatest moral conundrums. Unlocking the mystery of our existence is not something we solve with only the intellect or purchase at a discount at Wal-Mart.

Those who have invested their “life savings” into attuning themselves to God and have by great effort (and the grace which flows from it) solved the mystery of life and death testify unanimously that God exists and that God is love.

As you prayed to take from your father his pain, so, too, does God have our highest good in mind. Is not suffering, however, universal? Is there anyone free from pain, illness, old age or death? Could there even be life as we recognize it without the ceaseless play of dark and light.

Can you imagine a planet where only the sun shines ceaselessly? It would soon become hell. Rishis tell us that the play of light and dark, pain and pleasure and the endless pairs of opposites (male and female, e.g.) is the very mechanism by which God can bring the creation into form and to clothe that form with the appearance of reality.

Transcending the opposites is the path to freedom, we are told. Suffering can be redemptive if accepted with faith. Life can be redemptive if accepted with faith.

Some, with faith, would say that accepting the suffering that all too often comes with end of life is an opportunity to achieve freedom and nonattachment to the people, places, and experiences of that life.

We know that death (and suffering) is a part of life. Why not face that fact that with courage and with faith in its intrinsic goodness. The alternative is unacceptable to the human heart and the soul’s knowing.

Have faith that goodness and love lay hidden behind all creation and that your father rests now in the “bosom of the Lord.”

Blessings, hriman