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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 (309)
March 7, 2016
An update, not theoretical, but cathartic I hope.
Today I found out a merchant I had known was murdered in his store. When I first met him we engaged in conversation. This is always a wonderful thing, to know you can communicate with a stranger in a constructive way. It is one of he most beautiful things I cherish anyways. I spoke with him for some time and each time we continued in the same direction with our banter until I moved further away from his store and did not purchase items from there anymore. As reported in the media he was trying to break up a fight in his store between two vagrants...he was trying to be a peacemaker. His senses told him to protect those involved and to alleviate the anger involved and an unfortunate circumstance unfolded. He can no longer be reached for his opinions and we cannot say how his mindset was last retained but for the persons life he saved I hope this question arises. I hope for all it arrises. I hope it is changed to "let's help good people avoid suffering needlessly." God bless him.
Robert Anderson
Queens
March 6, 2016
Thank you
I needed a different form of explanation to help deal with my pain and others pain that affects me and my journey walking with God.
Allie
New Zealand
February 17, 2016
I believe, like you, that we are to love God and love others, therefore I must seek out those who are suffering in this world and do what I can to ease it. Having said that, there remains the larger question. The why question. I believe in the fall of humanity in sin as described in Genesis. Originally, God did not create a world where sickness, death, disease, heartache, and pain existed. The great separation between God and man, when evil entered into all that God created, all of his creation began to in some form die. Humans, nature, animals, everything and at that point God's heart began the plan of HIs great redemption. Meanwhile, bad things happening to people, whether they are good or bad, is just a part of being human. Where is God? Right with you in your suffering. He offers healing and help and peace and hope. Why did my husband get cancer? Why not? He is human like everyone else. God did not give him cancer. Good fathers don't give bad things to their children.
Anonymous
January 15, 2016
Suffering
The problem is, it never stops. It goes on and on and on. The good are punished, taken advantage of, abused, cheated, etc. It never stops. Just when things seem to level out and are going good for awhile (or you think they are). Then you get sucker punched again. The bad guys prosper, praise God, and continue on their way without any consequences. The good people suffer and never seem to get any relief. The bad have a good time and and torture the good in the name of God. If this was a sales pitch for a new product evil would win hands down.
Anonymous
October 30, 2015
Take your righteous anger and that driven force to do good. That's one way of dissolving bad forces at work. Feeding yourself with the true light that comes with the whole package. Peace, Love, understanding, joy, etc.. Strive for the package instead of carrying the baggage. Overcoming all things.
sarah
British Columbia, Canada
October 27, 2015
I am non-religious, but I ran upon this website. This is an absolutely beautiful and mind changing answer. Thank you very much!
Anonymous
October 21, 2015
Sorry for the loss of your sister Ed. All of us have loss or will have loss. Sometime our senses are heightened when we lose one sense. Perhaps she felt and heard more. At least I hope. Light shines in the darkness at unexpected moments in our life. I hope she had a glimmer of a Rainbow...before she passed.
Ellen
Ny
October 20, 2015
I know it is hard to reason why, how, and other questions..Ten years go or more, may she rest in peace, my sister had retinitus pigmintosa with no cure possible. Now they have discovered a way for people to see with an implanting into the ete of a certain gadget....Why so darn late...now if she was alive she would have been able to see her children which sh never saw.
Ed.
October 20, 2015
I agree with Aaron and Robert. I do believe the injustice and fairness should be fought against, but somehow as a woman, it seems men don't listen. That said, it is more of a struggle to be heard. This is what saddens me when I fight back.
But Robert, gives me inspiration and a calling. Thank you both, Ellen
Ellen
ny
October 8, 2015
TO ANONYMOUS OF OCTOBER 5, 2015
I partly agree with what you say i.e. how to deal with these matters.
However, knowing "why" could help with the way that one deals with these things.
Anonymous
Johannesburg