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Explaining Providence
(God's Loving Plan for Humanity)

Why All People Suffer: Providence

What is God’s plan for humanity?

Quick answer: God’s goal for mankind is for us to be like him so we spend eternity with him.

  • Scripture and Tradition are united and unambiguous with this answer:

  • God wants us to be like Him so we can share eternal life with him.

    •  Jesus makes this very clear in the parable of the prodigal son.

  • More references:

    • 2 Peter 1:4 Through the promise of Christ we could come to share in the divine nature

    • Irenaeus: God became man so that man could become God.

    • CCC,460: The word became flesh to make men partakers of the divine nature.

How do we become like God?

Quick answer: by emulating Jesus Christ, who became man so we

could become like God.

  • Jesus gave us the 8 Beatitudes to teach us how to love as he does

  • They describe the attributes of Christ.

  • They reveal man’s purpose and how to have true happiness

  • They cannot be fully lived without God’s grace.

1.Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

  •     We are called to help others, regardless of the cost to us or the wealth of the sufferer.

2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  •     When we encounter one who suffers we need I mourn with them, showing empathy and solidarity.

3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.

  •     The meek put others’ needs before their own.

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

  •     To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to work to remove injustices that cause human suffering.

5.Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.

  •     Offer  both compassion and forgiveness to those who suffer.

6. Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.

  •     They are in tune with God’s will, ready to help and be helped.

7.Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called  children of God.

  •     We are called to help resolve and avoid conflicts.

8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  •     We must be willing to suffer for what is right.

Does god act to save individuals (particular) providence or only plan at the universal level, with individuals randomly affected (general providence?

Quick answer: His plans account for every rcreature in the universe

The Church asserts the existence of particular providence.

  • God does not abandon his creatures but sustains them.

  • This is supported by logic, human experience and scripture.

    • Logic: rational creatures do things for a reason.

    • Experience: no rational being would create a universe without caring about it.

    • Scripture:  “not a sparrow falls from  the sky  without god’s knowledge.  (mt 10: 29)”

The theology of suffering recognizes a personal god, who cares deeply about each of us and takes specific actions to direct us  home to Him.

  • For this to all work properly, God needs to be able to motivate individuals to carry out his plans without taking away free will.

    • Because He exists out of time, He sees the future, past and present at once

    • Because He made us,he know how we will react to any situation​

    • Because He is all-powerful, he can create the necessary scanario to motivate the desired response from us.

How does evil fit in God’s plan?

Quick answer: God uses evil as needed to motivate the desired response from us to carry out his plan.

  • God reaches out to us all  to encourage us to return to the life He planned for us.

  • Evil has a prominent place in this plan for our salvation, even when we sin.

    • Evil is not an entity, but simply the absence of an expected good.

  • To provide humans with a sense of purpose,  God left the universe in an unperfected state, with physical evils reflecting opportunities for human growth and initiative.

  • He made humans interdependent so we would learn to love. He gave us free will, knowing that we would abuse that freedom but he also gave us reason so we could learn and grow.

  • He provides physical and natural evils at just the right times for to motivate us to develop the virtues consistent with the divine nature that leads to beatitude.

  • He uses the evil of sin to perfect the victims and the evil of punishment to perfect the sinner. 

    •  victims of sin are called to love their opppressor to save them both

    • Punishment rehabilitates the sinner

  • Finally, He gave us suffering so we could detect the evil in our lives and to motivate us to seek the good we lack.

What is the role of suffering in God’s plan?

Quick answer: Suffering directs us to become like God so we can be with God.

  • Suffering and joy are like a divine carrot and stick combination.

    • Suffering is the stick that is used to guide us where the master wants us to go.

      • It makes it uncomfortable when we stray off the path and motivates us to stay on it.

    • Joy is the carrot that is the reward when we get there.

      • Everyone prefers the carrot to the stick but without the stick, it is much more difficult to earn the carrot


  • The thought that God guides us with a stick might suggest God is angry or vengeful.

    • This view must be wrong because it contradicts the image of God presented to us by Jesus in the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son.

How does suffering  work in our lives?

Quick answer: There are four tasks of suffering to teach us to love unconditionally taking  us from sin to salvation and eternal joy.

The Four tasks of suffering:.

1) Developing Virtue: (Love of Self)

  • Avoiding suffering = building virtue

  • TeachesTemperance, Fortitude, justice and prudence through simple feedback loops.

    • If we eat  too much we feel sick, if we eat too little we feel hungry, so we learn to eat what is healthy for us (temperance). 

    • Suffering is  harsh and persistent so to operate with it we learn fortitude.

    • If we treat someone poorly, they suffer and when we take notice we learn to act justly.

    • Prudence aligns us to God when we start recognizing patterns that lead to virtue (often without realizing that).


2) Reorienting the Soul to God (Love of God)

  • the prudent person  begins to seek out the source of the patterns seen to lead to living well.

  • Some people have a conversion event where the suffering is so severe that only God can help.

3) Unleashing Love  (Love of Neighbor)

  • Suffering provides opportunities to love and be loved.

  • To act towards others according to God’s will.

4) Redeeming the sufferer (Redemptive Love)

  • One recognizes they suffer for the benefit of others and accepts it out of love of God and neighbor.

  • Because they share in the suffering of Christ , they will share in his glory.

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