Theological Beliefs about Suffering and Interactions with the Divine
This study situated theologically based beliefs about suffering as “mid-level” variables within a multilevel framework of ways in which people relate to the Divine. We examined whether beliefs about suffering associated with global ways of relating to the Divine (e.g., religiousness, general views of God) and context-specific ways of relating to the Divine (e.g., perceptions, feelings, and behaviors related to God in the context of a specific religious/spiritual struggle). In a large sample of undergraduates (N = 2,920), across the global and context-specific levels, beliefs that suffering is part of God’s benevolent plan were related to more favorable perceived interactions with God, whereas beliefs ascribing a nonbenevolent role to God were related to less favorable interactions with God. Longitudinal analyses revealed that beliefs about suffering predicted changes in global variables over 1 year. We discuss how our proposed multilevel framework helps to integrate findings concerning perceived interaction with the Divine.
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