Robert Gleave: Understanding the paradox of suffering

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Trials and suffering are an intrinsic part of our mortal experience, Robert Gleave told Education Week participants Wednesday as part of his lectures series this week titled “Reconciling Paradoxes: Wresting with Principles That Seem Contradictory.”

Gleave, the clinical director at BYU Counseling and Psychological Services, told those gathered that evil and suffering are necessary elements of a fallen world in which God’s children can progress to become like Him.

“Evil presents a real problem,” Gleave said. “If you believe God is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and loving, how do you account for it?”

The reason God allows evil to exist, according to Gleave, is so that God’s children will come to understand what it is like to be separated from Him, and learn to choose God’s companionship rather than taking it for granted.

“(In the pre-mortal world), Father in Heaven could communicate love to our spirits perfectly, instantaneously,” Gleave said. “But when that’s the case, how do you feel alone? How do you feel afraid? Now we get to know about being alone, about being afraid and feeling incomplete.”

Such a privilege doesn’t sound pleasant, Gleave said, but it teaches us to choose God and become like him if we react to adversity properly. Our faith in Jesus Christ strengthens us, he said, to walk by faith rather than sight during difficult times personally and throughout the world.

“Could it be that this is the only time we will have the advantage of a veil?” Gleave asked. “Can we learn to see that as a gift from our Heavenly Father?”

Gleave used Doctrine and Covenants 122 as a scriptural example of God’s reasoning for allowing suffering and evil to exist. In verse 7 of that section, the Lord tells Joseph Smith to bear his afflictions with faith.

“If the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good,” the verse reads.

Such teachings change our perspective and even our very nature, Gleave taught.

“There’s something about hell coming after us and us reaching out to the Savior that changes something deep within ourselves,” he said.

Gratitude also acts as a healing balm that enables those suffering from afflictions to endure, according to Gleave.

“Can we be grateful for our teenagers even when they don’t do what we ask any more?” Gleave asked. “Can we be grateful for our neighbors, even if they throw their garbage over the fence?”

Gleave then turned to Corinthians 1 Corinthians 10:13, a scripture that assures the Saints that “God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

“It is important to know that there boundaries to what we will be called upon to suffer,” Gleave said.  “The Savior’s atonement makes up the difference. If you fail this round, you get another one. And if you fail that round, you get another one.”

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