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The Table Video

Eleonore Stump

Suffering, the Problem of Evil, & the Desires of the Heart

Professor of Philosophy / Robert J. Henle Chair in Philosophy, Saint Louis University
February 9, 2018

The heartbroken can attest to the pain of suffering. We all have our hearts set on something, often very good and valuable things. What should we say about God’s will and the meaning of suffering when we lose what our hearts most desire? Philosopher Eleonore Stump speaks on the interaction between desires of the heart, human flourishing, the problem of evil, and the desires of the heart.



The problem of evil is raised by the existence of suffering in the world. Can it be true that a world which has such suffering in it also be a world that is governed by an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God, as Christians believe? A theodicy is one way to answer this question in the affirmative. A theodicy is an attempt to show that there is a morally sufficient reason for God to allow suffering. In the history of the discussions of the problem of evil, a great deal of effort has been expended on proposing or attacking theodicies and the morally sufficient reasons which theodicies propose.

Generally, when a theodicy proposes a morally sufficient reason that explains why God allows suffering, that reason is centered on some benefit which could not be gotten without the suffering and which outweighs it. And the benefit is most commonly thought of as some intrinsically valuable thing supposed to be essential to general human flourishing. So, for example, the well-known theologian John Hick has proposed a soul-making theodicy. It justifies suffering as building the character of the sufferer and by that means contributing to the flourishing of the sufferer.[1] Or, to take another example, the well-known philosopher Richard Swinburne has argued that suffering contributes to the flourishing of sufferers because in suffering a person is useful to others, and being useful to others is an important part of human flourishing.[2]

Scholars who have attacked theodicies such as these have argued that the proposed benefit could have been gotten without the suffering, or that the suffering is not a morally acceptable means to the benefit. But these attacks on theodicy share an assumption with the theodicies themselves. Both the attacks and the theodicies suppose that a person’s flourishing in one way or another would be sufficient to justify God in allowing that person’s suffering if only the suffering and the flourishing were connected in the right way. In this lecture, I want to call this assumption into question.

I do not think that human suffering can be justified only in terms of the intrinsically valuable things which make for human flourishing, (however that flourishing is understood). That is because human beings can set their hearts on things which are not necessary for flourishing, and they suffer when they lose or fail to get what they set their hearts on.[3] That suffering also needs to be addressed in consideration of the problem of evil.

The desires of the heart

The suffering to which I want to call attention can be thought of in terms of what the Psalmist calls ‘the desires of the heart’.[4] When the Psalmist says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”[5], we all have some idea what the Psalmist is promising. We are clear, for example, that some abstract theological good which a person does not care much about does not count as one of the desires of that person’s heart. Suffering also arises when a human being fails to get a desire of her heart or has and then loses a desire of her heart.

I do not know how to make the notion of a desire of the heart precise; but, clearly, we do have some intuitive grasp of it, and we commonly use the expression or others related to it in ordinary discourse. We say, for example, that a person is heartsick because he has lost his heart’s desire. He is filled with heartache because his heart’s desire is kept from him. eHHe loses heart, because something he had put his heart into is taken from him. It would have been different for him if he had wanted it only half-heartedly; but since it was what he had at heart, he is likely to be heartsore a long time over the loss of it, unless, of course, he has a change of heart about it — and so on, and on.

Perhaps we could say that a person’s heart’s desire is a particular kind of commitment on her part to something –a person or a project — which matters greatly to her but which is not essential to her flourishing. So, for example, consider the wife of Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King. Her life exemplifies flourishing, on any ordinary measure of human flourishing; and yet her husband’s assassination was undoubtedly heart-breaking for her. Sometimes philosophers talk about our beliefs as a connected web, with some beliefs peripheral and others central to the web. Maybe there is also a web of desire. A desire of a person’s heart is a desire which is at or near the center of the web of desire for her. If she loses what she wants when her desire is at or near the center of the web, then other things which she had wanted begin to lose their ability to attract her because what she had most centrally wanted is gone. The web of desire starts to fall apart when the center does not hold, we might say. That is why the ordinary good things of life, like food and work, fail to draw a person who has lost the desires of her heart. She is heartbroken, we say, and that is why she has no heart for anything else now.

If things essential to human flourishing are intrinsically valuable for all human beings, then those things which are the desires of the heart can be thought of as the things which have value for a particular person just because she has set her heart on them.[6] Think about the value a child has for her mother. A mother does not love her child because she thinks that child is intrinsically valuable. It’s the other way around. The child is infinitely valuable in her mother’s eyes, because the mother loves that child so much. In the same way, the value a heart’s desire has for a person is derivative from her love for it, and not the other way around. A loving father, who was trying to deal gently with his small daughter’s childish tantrums, finally said to her with exasperated adult feeling, “It isn’t reasonable to cry about these things!” Presumably, the father means that the things for which his little daughter was weeping did not have much value on the scale which measures the intrinsic value of good things essential to human flourishing; and, no doubt, he was right in that assessment. But there is another scale by which to measure, too, and that is the scale which measures the value a thing has for a particular person because of the love she has for it. The second scale cannot be reduced to the first. We don’t care just about human flourishing. We also care about those things which are the desires of our hearts, and we suffer when we are denied our heart’s desires. I would say that it is not reasonable to say to a weeping child that it is not reasonable for her to weep about the loss of something she had her heart set on.

Suffering which stems from a loss of the heart’s desires is often enough compatible with flourishing.[7] Think, for example, of women who were slaves at a time when slavery was legal in this country. Think of Sojourner Truth, who was sold away from her parents at the age of nine, or think of Harriet Tubman, who suffered permanent neurological damage from the beatings she sustained in adolescence. If any human lives manifest flourishing, the lives of these women certainly do; most people would suppose that each of these women is an exemplar of a highly admirable, meaningful human life. And yet surely each of these women was irrevocably deprived of something on which, at some time, she had set her heart.

Thinkers in varying cultures, including some Stoics, Buddhists, Maoists, and many in the Christian tradition, have been fiercely committed to the position that human flourishing is independent of the vicissitudes of fortune that cause heartbreak. On Aquinas’s worldview, which takes flourishing to be a matter of union with God, most of the evils human beings suffer are compatible with flourishing. That is because a human person can be in a relationship of love with God and can also experience the consolation of that relationship, even when she is afflicted with serious suffering of body or mind. For all these thinkers, human flourishing is compatible even with such things as the depredations of other human beings, the torment of pain and disfigurement, the anguish of mental illness, the wretchedness of impoverishment, the misery of being unwanted, the affliction of pariah status, the brokenness of shame, and the death of loved ones, even though any of these things is sufficient to cause heartbreak to the person suffering it.

The belief that flourishing is compatible with heartbrokenness is also common among the reflective in our own culture. So, for example, in a moving passage borne of his long experience of caring for and living with the severely disabled, Jean Vanier says about the disabled and about himself, too,

“we can only accept … [the] pain [in our lives] if we discover our true self beneath all the masks and realize that if we are broken, we are also more beautiful than we ever dared to suspect. When we realize our brokenness, we do not have to fall into depression…. Seeing our own brokenness and beauty allows us to recognize, hidden under the brokenness and self-centeredness of others, their beauty, their value, and their sacredness. This discovery is… a blessed moment, a moment of grace, and a moment of enlightenment that comes in a meeting with the God of love, who reveals to us that we are beloved and so is everyone else…. We can start to live the pain of loss and accept anguish because a new love and a new consciousness of self are being given to us.”[8]

A particularly poignant example of this kind of view is given by John Hull in his memoir about his slow descent into blindness. Hull spends many pages documenting his powerful aversion to going blind and the great suffering caused him by the blindness that finally enveloped him. But then he recounts a religious experience he had while he was listening to music in a church. As he describes that experience, he summarizes his attitude towards his blindness in this powerful passage:

“the thought keeps coming back to me…. Could there be a strange way in which blindness is a dark, paradoxical gift? Does it offer a way of life, a purification, an economy? Is it really like a kind of painful purging through a death? …. If blindness is a gift, it is not one that I would wish on anybody….[But] as the whole place and my mind were filled with that wonderful music, I found myself saying, ‘I accept the gift. I accept the gift.’ I was filled with a profound sense of worship. I felt that I was in the very presence of God, that the giver of the gift had drawn near to me to inspect his handiwork…. If I hardly dared approach him, he hardly dared approach me… He had, as it were, thrown his cloak of darkness around me from a distance, but had now drawn near to seek a kind of reassurance from me that everything was all right, that he had not misjudged the situation, that he did not have to stay. ‘It’s all right,’ I was saying to him, ‘There’s no need to wait. Go on, you can go now; everything’s fine.”[9]

And everything is fine, in some sense having to do with relationship to God, and so with flourishing, too, on Aquinas’s account of flourishing as well as on Hull’s. I have no wish to undercut anything in this moving passage. Hull’s thought, like the thought of Jean Vanier, seems to be as true as it is moving.

But because things can be fine in this sense even for those who suffer greatly, the stern-minded thinkers suppose that a person who is suffering because of the loss of the desires of his heart just needs to let those desires go.

Now there is something to be said for their attitude. Ordinarily, a parent’s goodness is not impugned if the parent refuses to provide for the child anything whatever which the child sets its heart on. A child could set his heart on things very destructive to him, for example, or even on evil things. And no doubt, this is only the beginning of the list of such very problematic instances of heart’s desires. In such cases, even if it were possible to do so, a good parent will not give the child what the child desires just because the parent loves the child and wants what is best for the child; she is at cross-purposes with the child just because she cares as much as she does that the child flourish. An analogous point holds with regard to God and the suffering of adult human beings. In cases in which the desires of a person’s heart are seriously inimical to his flourishing, reasonable people are unlikely to suppose that some explanation is needed for a good God’s failure to give that person the desires of his heart.

But if we exclude all such cases, there nonetheless remain many instances in which a person is heartbroken in consequence of having set his heart, in humanly understandable and entirely appropriate ways, on something whose value for him is derivative of his love for it. Even with regard to this restricted class of cases, stern-minded thinkers suppose that, as long as flourishing is preserved, the desires of the heart should be abandoned if cleaving to them leads to suffering. For stern-minded thinkers, there is no reason why a good God should provide whatever goods not necessary for her flourishing a human person has fixed her heart on.

We can think about their position this way. Stern-minded thinkers take human flourishing to be a very great good; for those who think of flourishing as a relationship to God, it can seem an infinite good or a good too great to be commensurable with other goods.[10] If God provides this good for a human person, then, on the stern-minded attitude, that is or ought to be enough for that person. A person who does not find this greatest of all goods good enough, on the view of the stern-minded, is like a person who wins the lottery but who is nonetheless unhappy because she did not get exactly what she wanted for her birthday.

In effect, then, the stern-minded attitude is unwilling to assign a positive value to anything which is not essential to a person’s flourishing. Consequently, the stern-minded attitude is, at best, unwilling to accord any value to the desires of the heart and, at worst, eager to get rid of the desires themselves.

The stern-minded attitude in the history of Christian thought

A stern-minded attitude is persistent in the history of Christian thought from the Patristic period onwards. In its Patristic form, it can be seen vividly in a story which Cassian tells about a monk named ‘Patermutus’. It is worth quoting at length the heart-rendingly horrible story which Cassian recounts with so much oblivious admiration:

“Patermutus’s constant perseverance [in his request to be admitted into the monastery finally] induced [the monks] to receive him along with his little son, who was about eight years old. … To test [Patermutus] …, and see if he would be more moved by family affection and the love of his own brood than by the obedience and mortification of Christ, which every monk should prefer to his love, [the monks] deliberately neglected the child, dressed him in rags… and even subjected [the child] to cuffs and slaps, which … the father saw some of them inflict on the innocent for no reason, so that [the father] never saw [his son] without [the son’s] cheeks being marked by the signs of tears. Although he saw the child being treated like this day after day before his eyes, the father’s feelings remained firm and unmoving, for the love of Christ…. The superior of the monastery …decided to test [the father’s] strength of mind still further: one day when he noticed the child weeping, he pretended to be enraged at [the child], and ordered the father to pick up [his son] and throw him in the Nile. The father, as if the command had been given him by our Lord, at once ran and snatched up his son and carried him in his own arms to the river bank to throw him in. The deed would have been done… had not some of the brethren been stationed in advance to watch the riverbank carefully; as the child was thrown they caught him… Thus they prevented the command, performed as it was by the father’s obedience and devotion, from having any effect.”[11]

Cassian plainly prizes Patermutus’s actions and desires; but surely most of us would find them chilling and reprehensible. What Cassian admires in Patermutus is in fact the determination with which Patermutus tries to eradicate in himself one of the most powerful and natural heart’s desires, in the interest of focusing all his care solely on flourishing, spiritually understood.

An attitude similar to Cassian’s but less appalling can still be found more than a millenium later in some texts (but not others) of the work of Teresa of Avila, to take just one from among a host of thinkers who might have been selected as examples. Writing to her sister nuns, Teresa says,

“Oh, how desirable is … [the] union with God’s will! Happy the soul that has reached it. Such a soul will live tranquilly in this life, and in the next as well. Nothing in earthly events afflicts it unless it finds itself in some danger of losing God …: neither sickness, nor poverty, nor death…. For this soul sees well that the Lord knows what He is doing better than… [the soul] knows what it is desiring…. But alas for us, how few there must be who reach [union with God’s will!]…. I tell you I am writing this with much pain upon seeing myself so far away [from such union] — and all through my own fault. … Don’t think the matter lies in my being so conformed to the will of God that if my father or brother dies I don’t feel it, or that if there are trials or sicknesses I suffer them happily.”[12]

Not feeling it when one’s father dies, not weeping with grief over his death, is, in Teresa’s view, a good spiritual condition which she is not yet willing to attribute to herself. Teresa is here echoing a tradition which finds its prime medieval exemplar in Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine says that, at the death of his mother, by a powerful command of his will, he kept himself from weeping at her funeral, only to disgrace himself in his own eyes later by weeping copiously in private.[13]

Teresa’s attitude towards her father’s death, as she imagines it might be if it were what she takes to be ideal, can be usefully contrasted with Bernard of Clairvaux’s attitude towards the death of his brother. Commenting on his grief at that death, Bernard says to his religious community,

“You, my sons, know how deep my sorrow is, how galling a wound it leaves.”[14]

And, addressing himself, he says,

“Flow on, flow on, my tears…. Let my tears gush forth like fountains.”[15]

Reflecting on his own unwillingness to repudiate his great sorrow over his brother’s death, his failure, that is, to follow Augustine’s model, Bernard says,

“It is but human and necessary that we respond to our friends with feeling, that we be happy in their company, disappointed in their absence. Social intercourse, especially between friends, cannot be purposeless: the reluctance to part and the yearning for each other when separated indicate how meaningful their mutual love must be when they are together.”[16]

On this subject, then, the Christian tradition is of two minds. Not all its influential figures stand with Cassian on this score; and, even among those who do, many are double-minded about it.

A possible confusion

But, someone will surely object, isn’t it a part of Christian doctrine that God allows the death of any person who dies? Does anyone die when God wills that that person live? So when a person dies, on Christian theology, isn’t it the will of God that that person die? In what sense, then, could Teresa be united with God in will if she grieved over her father’s death? How could she be united with God, as she wants to be, if her will is frustrated in what God’s will accepts or commands?

In my view, the position presupposed by the questions rests on too simple an understanding of God’s will and union with God.

To see why, assume that at death Teresa’s father is united with God in heaven. Then the death of Teresa’s father has opposite effects for Teresa and for God: it unites Teresa’s father permanently with God, but it keeps Teresa from union with her father, at least for the remainder of Teresa’s earthly life. For this reason, love’s desire for union with the beloved cannot be fulfilled in the same way for a human person as for God. If Teresa’s will is united with God’s will in desiring union with her father, then Teresa’s will must also be frustrated at the very event, her father’s dying, which fulfills God’s will with respect to this desire.

Something analogous can be said about the other desire of love, for the good of the beloved. If Teresa desires the good of her father, she can only desire what her own mind sees as that good; but, unlike God’s mind, her mind’s ability to see the good is obviously limited. To the extent to which Teresa’s will is united with God’s will in desiring the good of the beloved, then Teresa will also desire for the beloved person things different from those desired by God, in virtue of Teresa’s differing ability to see the good for the beloved person.

It is easy to become confused here because the phrase ‘the good’ can be used in two different ways. Philosophers call these two different ways the attributive use of the expression and the referential use of the expression.[17] An expression like ‘the good of the beloved’ can be used to refer to concrete particular things which are conducive to the beloved’s wellbeing – then the expression is being used referentially. Or the expression can be used opaquely, to pick out anything whatever as long as it is under the description the good of the beloved – then the expression is being used attributively. A mother who is baffled by the quarrels among her adult children and clueless about how to bring about a just peace for them may say, despairingly, “I just want the good for everybody”. She is then using the expression ‘the good’ attributively, with no idea of how to use it referentially.

If Teresa were tranquil over any affliction which happens to her father, it would be because she thought that by this tranquility her will would be united to God’s will in willing the good for her father. In this thought of hers, ‘the good’ would be used attributively, to designate whatever God thinks is good. But this cannot be the way ‘the good’ is used in any thought of God’s. It is not true that God desires as the good of a beloved person whatever it is that God desires for him. When God desires the good for someone, he desires it by desiring concrete particular things as good for that person. Consequently, when we say that God desires the good for a person, the expression ‘the good’ is here used referentially.

For this reason, when, in an effort to will what God wills, Teresa desires whatever happens to her father as the good for her father,[18] she thereby actually fails to will what God wills. To be united with God in willing the good requires willing for the beloved, as God does, particular things which are in fact the good for the beloved, and doing so requires recognizing those things which constitute that good.

Understanding the subtle but important difference in attitude between Teresa and Bernard on this score helps to elucidate an otherwise peculiar part of the book of Job. In the book of Job, God rebukes Job’s comforters; God tells the comforters that they did not say of God the thing which is right, unlike God’s servant Job, who did. But here is the peculiar part. What the comforters had said was that God is perfectly good and justified in allowing Job to suffer as he did. What Job had said, with bitterness, is that his suffering was bad and that God should not have allowed it to happen. How is it that, in the story, God says that Job was right in what he said and the comforters were wrong in what they said?

The apparent paradox here can be resolved by the Thomistic distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will.[19] Roughly put, God’s antecedent will is what God would have willed if things in the world had been up to God alone. God’s consequent will is what God in fact wills, given what God’s creatures will. God’s consequent will is his will for the greatest good available in the circumstances at least some of which are generated through creaturely free will. This distinction holds also for human beings. When you want to have a happy family dinner hour with your children, you are operating with your antecedent will. When you send the two-year old to his room because he won’t stop throwing his food on the floor, you are operating on your consequent will. On this distinction, whatever happens in the world happens only because it is in accordance with God’s will, but that will is God’s consequent will. God’s consequent will, however, is different from his antecedent will; and many of the things which happen in the world are not in accordance with God’s antecedent will.

To try to be in accord with God’s will by taking as acceptable, as unworthy of sorrow, everything that happens is to confuse the consequent will of God with the antecedent will. It is to accept as intrinsically good even those things which God wills only in his consequent will. But the distinction between God’s antecedent and his consequent will is meant to help us understand God does not will as intrinsically good everything he wills. What he wills in his consequent will might be only what is the best available in the circumstances; and the best available might be only the lesser of two evils.

And so to accept as good whatever happens on the grounds that it is God’s will is the wrong way to try to be united with God. One can desire as intrinsically good what one’s own mind takes to be intrinsically good in the circumstances, or one can desire[20] as intrinsically good whatever happens, on the grounds that it is God’s will. But only the desire for what one’s own mind takes to be intrinsically good can be in accordance with God’s will. For the same reasons, only a desire of this sort is conducive to union with God. Although it appears paradoxical, then, the closest a human person may be able to come, in this life, to uniting her will with God’s will may include her willing things (say, that a beloved person not die) which are opposed to God’s (consequent) will.

Denying oneself

Something also needs to be said in this connection about the Christian doctrine mandating denial of the self. This much understanding of the two different ways in which one can try to will what God wills shows that there are also two correspondingly different interpretations of that doctrine.

Cassian and others who hold the stern-minded attitude manifest one such understanding. A person who shares Cassian’s attitude will attempt to deny his self by, in effect, refusing to let his own mind and his own will exercise their characteristic functions. That is because a person who attempts to see as good whatever happens, on the grounds that whatever happens is willed by God, is trying to suppress, or trying to fail to acquire, his own understanding of the good. And a person who attempts to will as good whatever happens, on the same grounds, is trying to suppress the desires his own will forms, or trying not to acquire the desires his will would have formed if he were not in the grip of the stern-minded attitude. To attempt to deny the self in the stern-minded way is thus to try not to have a self at all. A woman who says sincerely to her father, “I want only what you want”, and “whatever you think is good is good in my view, too”, is a woman who is trying to be at one with her father by having no self of her own.

A little reflection shows that, contrary to first appearances, the no-self position is actually incompatible with Christ’s command to take up one’s cross daily and deny oneself. That is because one cannot crucify a self one does not have. To crucify one’s self is to have desires and also to be willing to act counter to them. C.S.Lewis, who is arguing for a similar position, puts the point this way:

“it would not be possible to live from moment to moment willing nothing but submission to God as such. What would the material for the submission be? It would seem self-contradictory to say “What I will is to subject what I will to God’s will,” because the second what has no content.”[21]

An adherent to the Whatever Faction of God cannot deny his self because he has constructed his desires in such a way that, whatever he wills, he does not will counter to his own desires. That is because a person who is a partisan of Whatever Faction of God has only an over-arching desire for whatever it may be that is God’s will, and he attempts to stamp out of himself any desires which are in conflict with that over-arching desire. He does not want to let God’s desires take precedence over his own; he just wants to have no desires of his own.

That is why (unlike the real Teresa, who was full of very human emotions) such a person would not weep if her father died. For a person in the grip of the stern-minded attitude, whatever happens is in accordance with the one over-arching desire to will whatever God wills. That is why whatever happens is not a source of sorrow to her. In virtue of the fact that she has tried to stamp out of herself all desires except the one desire for whatever it may be that is God’s will, she has tried to have no desires which are frustrated by whatever happens, as long as she herself remains committed to willing whatever God wills.[22]

By contrast, a self-crucifying denier of the self has desires for things his own intellect finds good, so that he is vulnerable to grief in the frustration of those desires. But he prefers his grief and frustration to willing what is opposed to God’s will. In this sense, he wills that God’s will be done. His desire is that God’s desires take precedence over his own. When Jesus says to God the Father, “not my will but yours be done”, he is not expressing the no-self position. On the contrary, as Aquinas argues, in this line Jesus is acknowledging that he has desires of his own and that they may be conflict with God’s desires.[23] But, in virtue of preferring his suffering to the violation of God’s will, Jesus is also willing that God’s desires take precedence over his. This is the sense in which he is willing that God’s will be done. C.S.Lewis says,

“In order to submit the will to God, we must have a will and that will must have objects. Christian renunciation does not mean Stoic ‘Apathy,’ but a readiness to prefer God to inferior ends which are in themselves lawful. Hence Jesus brought to Gethsemane a will, and a strong will, to escape suffering and death if such escape were compatible with the Father’s will, combined with a perfect readiness for obedience if it were not”.[24]

To deny oneself is therefore a matter of being willing both to have desires of one’s own and to go contrary to them. Or, put another way, it is a matter of being willing to suffer the violation of one’s will. Insofar as the stern-minded attitude seeks to eradicate desires other than the desire for flourishing, it in effect refuses to have a self to deny. And so it is more aptly characterized as an extreme attempt to avoid suffering than as self-denial.

The repudiation of the stern-minded attitude

So, for all these reasons, the stern-minded attitude is to be repudiated. Whatever its antiquity and ancestry, like many others in the Christian tradition Aquinas does not accept it. In my view, he does well to reject it. It is an unpalatable position, even from the point of view of an ascetically-minded Christianity. It underlies the repellent and lamentable mind-set exemplified in Cassian’s story. It is also incompatible with the love of one’s neighbor and consequently with love of God as well. Contrary to the stern-minded attitude, there are things worth desiring other than the intrinsically valuable things necessary for human flourishing, and the desires for these things should not be suppressed. In fact, as Cassian’s story of Patermutus makes plain, the attempt to stamp out the desires of the heart does not lead to human excellence, as Cassian thought it did, but to a kind of inhuman willing to murder one’s own child in the service of a confused and reprehensible attempt at self-denial.



For all these reasons, we can safely leave the objections of the stern-minded attitude to one side. It therefore remains the case that some justification is also needed for suffering stemming from unfulfilled or frustrated desires of the heart. For this reason, theodicies which focus just on one or another variety of flourishing as the morally sufficient reason for God’s allowing evil are, at best, incomplete. Even if we give such theodicies everything they want as regards the relation between suffering and a person’s flourishing, there remains the problem of suffering stemming from the loss of the desires of one’s heart.

And so the desires of the heart also need to be considered in connection with the problem of evil. For my part, I think it is possible to find a way to develop traditional theodicies to include satisfactory consideration of the problem posed by the desires of the heart;[25] but, clearly, that complicated and challenging task is a project for a book, not a lecture. For today, it is enough to have reflected on the nature of the desires of the heart and to have seen their importance for human flourishing. And so I want to finish just by reminding us of the Psalmist’s promise: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”