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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 (233)
April 17, 2014
Ed.
Coconut Creek, Florida
Already have this cure for cancer! They hide from everyone cos pharmaceutical companies will going bankrupt!
Mariela
Bulgaria
April 14, 2014
I think you are spot on but, this doesn't satisfy it's contrary question: Why do good things happen to bad people. Seeing how intelligent you are, I hope you can formulate a response to answer that question for I have been unable to do so.
Anonymous
Oceanside
March 31, 2014
why do bad things happen to good people
Wow Awesome stuff there Aron. You got it right on;-)
Anonymous
March 30, 2014
Waiting is the answer?
If the answer is to wait for some brilliant person to discover a cure for heart problems, cancer,, and many other forms of deadly diseases then the living would still be suffering in pain. The Hebrews were in bondage for 410 years waiting for the Messia why must we wait so long for these cures and yes during the holocaust why the children had to die...please explain this!
Ed.
Coconut Creek, Florida
March 27, 2014
Man's empathy is important, but ultimately the question is about God's empathy for man. While it is true God has tolerated suffering(wickedness/lawlessness) why would we think suffering is part of his purpose? What can the Almighty gain by having his children suffer? There is, though, something we can learn. For centuries humanity has done things its own way, deliberately or out of ignorance.' How is that going? ' At any rate, as the good book says "he that does the will of God lasts forever."
John
new york
March 27, 2014
Nearly a year has gone by and, other than for a few readers, the rest still try to give answers to an illogical question. Similar to ," Why , when an aereoplane crashes , do the good people die along the bad people ?" Will `man` ever learn to accept the realities of life on earth, without involving G-D ?
April 11, 2013
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Simple. G-D created the world and all that there is in ! From then on in HE gave man a free choice to do what he wanted. Dont blame G-D. HE does not want and has no control on anything to do with what happened or happens to `man`. The Holacaust is a perfect example. Unless of course you think G-D is cruel ,like `man`.
Ron Sharpe
San Ysidro CA
March 27, 2014
Empathy..
To "Anonymous"- neither you nor I nor the writer can ever be truly empathetic unless we have suffered the same misfortunes as those with whom we claim to be empathetic. The author is not presuming to be empathetic - as you indeed note. There is no evidence to support your presumption that the author does "not care about those people suffering". The author has offered some suggestions that may be useful in understanding suffering. The ability to care about suffering ( compassion ) is an altogether different topic that requires separate discussion.
Avi
California
March 26, 2014
The writer dodged the question, and give an answer like "innocent people suffer to move others". This answer connotes that the write did not care about those people suffering but their function as a tool. The writer lacked empathy.
Anonymous
March 23, 2014
I understand the answer to this question ( help other people instead of focusing on ourselves)...no matter how life is or why bizzarre and crazy life is in our own life's (it's still a question marked unsolved)...although when you focus on someone else your problem seems so small...I've been there!!! My question is why is God spelled like G-d from this person who wrote this site to lead us here? In the bible it spell's God not G-d! I wouldn't trust an answer from this site that spell's God as G-D.... GOD is awesome to me and he get's me through life because he's not G-d he's God!
Anonymous
sudbury, ntairo
February 28, 2014
suffering of the innocent.
Sorry but I didn't find any answers here to the question. If you assume that there is no personal G-d interested in humans as explained in the Torah the suffering of the innocent becomes a moot question. Buddhism says the nature of life is suffering. We can finally come to this realization through contemplation and deal with this reality through mindfulness meditation and personal behavior that reduces suffering to ourselves and others. From a taoist or hindu perspective, perhaps this life is a bad dream and we are really in a perfect state now. all we have to do is wake up.
barry wicksman
saipan
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