God’s role in suffering: Theodicies, divine struggle, and mental health
The present research tested a mediation model specifying that divine struggle (e.g., anger at God, feeling punished or abandoned by God) mediates the associations of beliefs about suffering with psychological distress and mental health. We tested this model using structural equation modeling in 2 large samples, an undergraduate sample (N = 3,083) and a web-based sample of U.S. adults (N = 1,047). In both samples, beliefs that suffering is part of God’s benevolent plan, as well as beliefs that a nonbenevolent God causes suffering, were associated with more divine struggle and in turn with lower levels of well-being and higher distress. Beliefs attributing a benevolent role to God in suffering were directly linked to higher well-being, along with beliefs about God’s limited knowledge of the future and ability to prevent suffering. These results attest to the nuanced nature of the associations between religious belief systems, adversity, and life outcomes.
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