Heart Answer

June 28 2020 | by

DEAR DR. POPCAK: These last several months have been very hard on my faith. The entire world has been suffering so much. As I watched the news, I just kept wondering, “Where is God? Why would he allow this to happen?” The pandemic struck my family as I lost an aunt to COVID, but the lockdowns were just as hard on my family as a dear friend committed suicide because of the financial pressures she was under when her business failed. I find myself so angry at God for allowing all this to happen. I know I shouldn’t be mad at God, but I just don’t know how to find him in the midst of all this pain I feel.


First, I want to express my most sincere condolences for the losses you have experienced through this difficult time. I hope that all of my readers will join me in offering a prayer that God, in his mercy, would let his Perpetual Light shine on your aunt and your friend. Although we can lose faith in God, God never loses faith in us, and his mercy is deeper and wider than anything we could do to him or ourselves.

Second, I don’t want you to feel guilty for being angry at God. In John 15:15, Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves... I have called you friends.” If your friend was angry with you, would you prefer that she keep it inside and allow her resentment to fester and undermine your friendship? Or would you prefer that she confess her anger to you, be honest about how she felt you had offended her, and give you the chance to heal your relationship? 

If you would prefer your friend to be straight with you, imagine how much more God would want you to be honest with him. Although it can feel intimidating, it represents a great act of faith to bring our anger to God, to even rage against him, to beat on his chest, and give him permission to see – and heal – the scars that have been left on our hearts from the pain we have witnessed or experienced personally.

Your question points to a central struggle for every believer; the need to wrestle with the existence of evil. In Salvifici Doloris (The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), St. John Paul explores the “mystery” of evil.  Popularly, the word “mystery” means “something we can’t know the answer to.” When most people hear the phrase “the mystery of evil” it feels like what is being said is, “God is going to make you suffer and your job is to sit there and not ask why.”  That is not what it means at all. For the Christian, a mystery is not something that cannot be known. It is something that must be prayerfully contemplated and reflected upon. For the Christian, a mystery is something that can only be answered in the heart, not in the head.

Getting the “heart” answer to the mystery of evil begins with bringing your pain to God. Tell him your hurts. Be honest about your questions. Speak to him of your feelings of pain, frustration, confusion and despair. But always end your time with him by saying something like, “Lord, help me to find you in my pain. Help me to respond to all of this hurt in a way that both glorifies you and helps me become the person you want me to be.”

This last part is tremendously important because it speaks to where we can find God in the presence of pain and evil. In order to find God in the midst of pain and evil, we must consecrate them to him and ask him to stand in the center of them. When we do this, we turn on Christ’s light in the darkness, and he shows us the way through step-by-step.

I want you to pray like this every day with the expectant hope that God will respond to the pain in your heart. If you do, I can promise you that the Lord will lead you to a place of peace that might be difficult to explain to others, but will be real, tangible and certain just the same.

I suspect you have already experienced this process at other times in your life; times when you “just knew” something to be true even though it was hard to explain. For the Christian, there are just some answers that are better felt than explained. The existence of God, the reality of God’s mercy, and his presence in the midst of pain are among those.

Updated on July 26 2020