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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

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Question:

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is this world so unfair? Please don't tell me "We can't understand G‑d's ways." I am sick of hearing that. I want an explanation.

Answer:

Are you sure you want an explanation? Do you really want to know why the innocent suffer? I think not. You are far better off with the question than with an answer.

You are bothered by the fact that people suffer undeservedly. As you should be. Any person with an ounce of moral sensitivity is outraged by the injustices of our world. Abraham, the first Jew, asked G-d, "Should the Judge of the whole world not act fairly?" Moses asked, "Why have You treated this people badly?" And today we still ask, "Why G‑d, why?"

But what if we found the answer? What if someone came along and gave us a satisfying explanation? What if the mystery were finally solved? What if we asked why, and actually got an answer?

If this ultimate question were answered, then we would be able to make peace with the suffering of innocents. And that is unthinkable. Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening.

Imagine you are in a hospital and you hear a woman screaming with pain. Outside her room, her family is standing around chatting, all smiling and happy. You scream at them, "What's wrong with you? Can't you hear how much pain she is in?" They answer, "This is the delivery ward. She is having a baby. Of course we are happy."

When you have an explanation, pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening.

And so, if we could make sense of innocent people suffering, if we could rationalise tragedy, then we could live with it. We would be able to hear the cry of sweet children in pain and not be horrified. We would tolerate seeing broken hearts and shattered lives, for we would be able to neatly explain them away. Our question would be answered, and we could move on.

But as long as the pain of innocents remains a burning question, we are bothered by its existence. And as long as we can't explain pain, we must alleviate it. If innocent people suffering does not fit into our worldview, we must eradicate it. Rather than justifying their pain, we need to get rid of it.

So keep asking the question, why do bad things happen to good people. But stop looking for answers. Start formulating a response. Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good. Redirect your frustration with injustice and unfairness and channel it into a drive to fight injustice and unfairness. Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering wherever you can.

We don't want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. We want an end to suffering. And we dare not leave it up to G-d to alleviate suffering. He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (291)
May 14, 2015
If we do know the reason for innocent people'so suffering, then we can help them, and they won't suffer
Anonymous
April 24, 2015
@ Geza: you asked why God brings destruction on the "innocent,"In particular the Egyptian firstborn. The plagues on the Egyptians were not random, but attacks on the Egyptian gods. Each plague proved the Egyptian gods to be powerless to save their devotees. God on the other hand proved himself to be the true God, able to deliver and protect his people. Archeology says, the god Amon-Ra was the god of the firstborn. The tenth plague proved this Egyptian god to be powerless to save. In addition, all knew what was up; the previous nine plagues should have demonstrated to everybody God's superiority. Also Anybody could have put the blood on their door posts and saved their firstborn. It was the parents lack of faith that resulted in their children losing their lives.
As far as helping an unbeliever, it might be better to establish God's existence first. Psalm 19:1,2 is a good place to start.
John
NYC
March 13, 2015
To M
You may want to read the article "Is G-d a He", it addresses your question. Let us know what you think.
Chabad.org Staff
mychabad.org
March 12, 2015
Why is G d always called a "he"? Never understood that.
If G d is a he then I refuse to die. Inasmuch as G d is no he....I will definitely die.
I don't believe G d has a sexuality and is neither male or female.
Mo
March 4, 2015
This answer's nothing. The truth is if a person is really good, then they would still try to help others regardless of knowing the answer or not.
Anonymous
Oakwood
February 16, 2015
Suffering
Trite answer. We are human, and we think and feel about certain situations. If a person has to endure a mentally or physically painful experience, through no fault of his own, he/she may deem it bad in the short term. He/she may view it differently afterwards, but it is or was still bad at the time. Suffering is suffering - people feel. We are physical beings. We will never be able to 'rationalise tragedy' that we personally own, and should not attempt to rationalise others suffering. Obviously we will try to eliminate that suffering for ourselves, and sometimes others, But if we are supposed to be 'good' we do want to know Why? at times Hashem appears not to be adhering to His own rules.
Sonya
uk
February 10, 2015
@Dell, thank you for your response. I would enjoy having some references to the golden rule in other cultures. I think I heard Confucius saying to 'not do what you do want done to you.' Christ though put into the proactive by saying "do." Avoiding not harming others would be a big step in alleviating suffering, but how much more so if we actually took the initiative to do what would be in the best interest of others. At any rate, those references would be interesting.
As,far as the Bibles morality goes, I realize it can appear confusing. The only way it makes sense to me is in the context of God's original purpose. In Genesis we learn it was for Man to populate the earth free from death. Our first parents thought better; we are hopefully learning from their decision. God immediately promised to undue the harm done. Unfortunately, not everybody thinks restructuring is necessary. Would it have been fair for God to let them ruin it for the cooperative? Look up Canaanite worship.
John
February 9, 2015
Hope and prays
Who really has the answer? I am told that this is G-d's way of bringing us back to him. How far away we stray, feeling self-sufficient and independent of a greater strength. How often do we think everything that happens, simply happens by chance? Sleep is death's twin brother. Do you thank G-d for waking up every morning? For your health, your senses, etc. But when something bad happens, you remember him and cry out to him for help, answers, relief, mercy. I don't know the answer, but if it makes you remember him and come back to him, it works.
Anonymous
springfield
February 8, 2015
What's the Difference?
Seems to me you could just take God completely out of the equation. The vast majority of people who believe in God consider him to be a person-like being who is all-powerful, cares about people, answers prayers, and intervenes in the world. If he is just waiting for us to alleviate all the suffering, then what's the difference between a real God and an imaginary God?
Tim
January 22, 2015
Even karma requires compasion
I think this response is really not satisfactory. It may be that someone suffers because their soul needs to grow (as some who believe in re-incarnation will say) but to say that this will minimise sensitivity to their suffering is almost an insult. Some people enjoy to see others suffer they are sadistics but the majority of us if we understand we can ten time fold support the person who suffers. I knew when my daughters gave birth that the pain is part of giving birth but I can assure you that by no mean did I stood there indifferent! I felt each of her pain and my heart was praying for it to be over! Why do you guys have airy fairy answer to everything???
Rachel Sussman
Australia
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