Some of you are probably surprised by the title, but I’m not talking about a career choice. We’re talking about dealing with emotional evil. Now if you’re an apologist, you should naturally deal with the rational problem of evil and I encourage that. However, I am going to share for tonight a piece of advice that I have given to several people I have spoken to on apologetics.
I ask them to picture themselves in ministry of some sort and a crying mother comes into their office. Let’s suppose that her teenage son just died in a car accident when a drunk driver slammed into his car. This is a distraught mother who has just heard the news and in the midst of her constant sobbing she says “Why did God let this happen?”
My advice is that if you turn into an apologist at that point, you are messing up big time. I have threatened to come over and smack them if I hear about them doing that.
As much as you might love philosophy, it would be wrong at this point to say “Well Mrs. X, God gave us free-will and some people abuse that free-will.” The lady may be asking one thing but the question is one that doesn’t need an answer then. What she needs at that point is a friend and a counselor and a minister. She does not need a philosopher, a theologian, or an apologist.
I’ll also add this point to my male listeners. Men. Be very careful counseling women. I urge you to switch them over to other women as soon as possible.
However, getting back to our lady, she is dealing with the emotional problem. Even if you can answer her questions on the rational problem, it’s not going to help her with her emotional distress. She needs you to just listen mainly at that point and be there. This is the time when it’s good to remember that God is there with us in our sufferings. Prayer would be better than debate now.
Now later on, she might be open to discussing such issues. When she is, then fine. Feel free to discuss them. At this point though, don’t do so. It is a strong temptation and you will want to do so, especially if you’re of the intellectual bent and don’t really know how to deal with a lot of issues that are emotional in nature.
One other thing. In dealing with emotional evil, it will always make it easier if one has a firm explanation in a worldview beforehand. Remember though, you won’t know the reason behind every suffering. In fact, can you really say you know the exact reason behind any suffering? Our job is not to explain a particular case of evil but the general case of evil.
Remember, answers are good, but sometimes, they’d just be pouring salt on wounds. Be a friend first and an apologist later.