This little saying was in my inbox the other morning. It is a snippet from Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, the story about a person named Paul Farmer and his work in Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia. Farmer is a physician and medical anthropologist spending his career working to improve healthcare for some of the poorest folks in the world.
In the book, the question of suffering and why God allows it was asked of a group of poor Haitians. They responded with a Haitian proverb.
“Bondye konn bay, men li pa konn separe.”
It translates literally to "God gives but doesn't share." From the perspective of these people it simply means that God has provided everything that people need to flourish however, it is our responsibility to share it equitably.
A potential response
There are a few significant themes here - the source of suffering, the role of God in suffering, and human responsibility in it. It is interesting the way these intertwine - specifically the connection between suffering and the reluctance of people to love (share). If we were to examine many common kinds of suffering in the world we would probably find this connection more often than we’d care to admit.
God is not the source of suffering by way of an act of will or permissive will. God is uncontrolling by the nature of their character of love. However, the God-who-loves encourages us and works with and through us to affect the best possible outcomes. Through creation the God-who-loves provides the things that humanity requires to flourish and inspires us towards love. An example of love is sharing.
Our capacity to become love is enlarged as we lean into the Spirit, and we become a catalyst, inspired by the Spirit of Love to actively serve in ways that reduce suffering. A truly embodied love inspired response to the evil of suffering.
The big picture
As we become love or if you will Christ-like by the work of the Spirit we not only experience our own personal transformation but become a part of the transformation of creation contributing to the Kingdom project of 'on earth as it is in Heaven.'