I have had difficulty lately dealing with the daily news. Why so? There’s so much horrible news from the situation at the Kabul airport where 170-plus Afghans and 13 of our soldiers were killed to the situation in the U.S., where the Delta variant is killing thousands of our citizens on a daily basis.

There’ s also the water crisis in Western states like Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, where the water supply to the Colorado River and Lake Mead is drying up fast. We also have the gigantic forest fires in California and Oregon. How can we be positive about the future of the globe when things look so grim worldwide, e.g., the recent earthquake in Haiti. 

As a religious person, I wonder how an omnipotent God can allow so much suffering and misery on planet Earth. For example, it doesn’t seem fair that the Palestinians have no state of their own and no hope for their future and that of their children. The same holds true for the Afghans who have seen wars carried out in their land for the past 25 years with no end in sight.

In the eighteenth century, there was a group known as the Deists. Founding Fathers like Ben Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Paine plus the philosopher Charles S. Pierce, were deists who relied on reason and rejected revelation or the Bible. 

The Deists would say that God created the world and then left it to its own devices. In this matter, I cannot agree with the Deists. I would assert that God the Creator still acts today as the clay that shapes what happens to the world in accordance with Her/His guiding hand. I call this Divine Providence.

This is where faith comes to mind. My hero, Thomas Aquinas, reminds us that faith is a quality of mind by which eternal life begins with us, making our minds assent to those things which are not apparent to us. The more devastating and threatening things happen to us, the more must our faith increase in strength. As Friedrich Hölderin, the poet, famously said, “Wo aber Gefahr est, wächst das Rettende auch,” or “where there’s danger, the role of the Rescuer (or Redeemer) increases in strength.” (my translation).

On this earth, our lives are a mixture of suffering, and joy. Yet pain and suffering can be transformed into spiritual energy. Our lives are made up of good and evil, joy and suffering. Suffering can be changed into an expression of love, bringing a person closer to God. At every second of the day, a humongous ocean of human suffering radiates over the entire globe. 

To be fully alive, we must do three things: (1) develop ourselves; (2) be concerned with others in a loving and caring way; and (3) surrender ourselves to the One greater than we are. In following out these three steps, we will make progress in our spiritual lives and find happiness in the teeth of the problems we face today during a pandemic that we never expected. 

Finally, we might take as our motto “Excelsior” or “Ever Upward.”


Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus-Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.

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