Empathy and the Atonement
Even as an incurable optimist, I can see the world is often drenched in suffering.
It is difficult to imagine a more idyllic home than my sunny northern California, yet even here sorrow surrounds me. I see it in the sunken eyes of a young woman who is struggling furiously to free herself from addiction. I hear it in the anguished voice of a friend as he tells me how he used to envision hanging himself because he so desperately wanted not to be gay. I feel it in the intensity with which a loved one pleads to know why God had seemingly abandoned him to the hands of a callous abuser. And it haunts the halls of the hospital where we often have to deliver shattering news—I'm sorry, Ma'am, there is nothing more we can do for your husband; I'm sorry, Sir, but your cancer has spread to the liver and can no longer be cured.
It is understandable, then, that the thoughtful throughout history have questioned God's love. For as long as people have conceived of an omnipotent and perfectly beneficent God, they have wondered, Why do so many suffer so much—indeed, why does anyone suffer at all?
Yet, as I have come of age, Mormonism has offered me powerful and deeply satisfying responses to these thorny quandaries.