Faith in God both as ultimately in control of all that happens and as a loving father can indeed prove challenging on two levels.  First, faith is challenged when one experiences great personal misfortune or a tragedy that touches us or a loved one.  Secondly, faith is challenged in the face of large-scale natural disasters.  The challenge is experienced not only by the victims themselves but by all of us when the media bring the disaster vividly into our homes.  The question arises:  Why does God allow such suffering to happen?  How is that compatible with the existence of a loving and all-powerful God?

Providence, however, is not an occasional, manipulative presence, but one that is with us both in tragedy and in joy.  To find the strength to experience calmly the difficulties and trials that come into our lives, to believe they are not beyond God’s control, is a tremendous challenge.  If we are able to do that, every event can be accepted as “providential.”

It is relatively easy to believe in the loving providence of God when things are going well, when we experience blessings.  But what about those times when difficulties, disappointments, and suffering come into our lives?  And it doesn’t have to be some enormous suffering.  As someone pointed out pain is like gas.  It expands to fill the available space.  Regardless of its size, pain tends to fill    our consciousness.

Those who believe in a loving, provident God face the challenge of showing that God is neither absent nor uncaring.   Questioning the justice and compassion of an alleged deity leads many to deny God’s existence.  A brief, fictional conver-sation illustrates the point.  The first person says, “If God wants belief, he better provide some evidence.”  The second inquires, “That he exists?’  The first replies, “No, that he cares.”

Philosophers and theologians down through the ages have offered arguments
to justify God’s providence in the face of evil in the world.  Though not without value, rational arguments alone are incapable of reconciling the existence of a loving, provident God with the enormity of evil and suffering in the world.  The only alternatives are denial of God or faith.  In a sermon on the feast of the Ascension, St. Leo the Great said: “For those who abandon themselves to God’s providential love, faith does not fail, hope is not shaken, and charity does not grow cold.”