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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?



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.


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
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Discussion (299)
October 5, 2015
The question was pointless in the first place. How can we deal with bad things happening, is what everyone should be asking not why are they happening. Why doesn't encourage action...its just a waste of time.
August 18, 2015
It's the sanest answer I ever had for this question. Very practical. Thank you such much. Others try to explain it with platitudes and I do not blame the one hi asked. God can explain it Himself and He doesn't need our help. It only makes many get angry at God.
Anton lio
August 9, 2015
No offense but I totally disagree with that and the analogy of relatives being happy while the woman is giving birth. Men can't relate to that but other women can and will feel compassionate. Joy feels good because we understand pain, sunny days feel special because of rain, yet we still understand what causes them all. There are different degrees of pain and suffering and it's normal for a person to question why? My brother got hit over the head by some thugs and left out in the street, on a hot pavement, at a 90degree weather, in broad daylight, bleeding from his head while awaiting an ambulance. This guy never fights anyone, doesn't steal, doesn't commit adultery, wears tefilin and will drop everything to be there for the ones in need. Let's be honest with ourselves, some things in life we just can't explain and neither can the Torah. Some may say "be thankful that he is alive". I say he didn't deserve it in the first place.
July 23, 2015
Not sure, but I think suffering is intrinsic to human experience. It varies from person to person, some may say that it only affects those with bad luck, yet suffering is indiscriminate and keeps us aware of our greater missions.
July 22, 2015
However, if we can understand the "why" / the cause of the suffering, we can use that information to formulate and approach/answer to end the suffering. Shedding the light may temporarily cause eye pain, but, if we focus on the goal (end suffering) we can stay on track and see what needs to be seen.
July 14, 2015
Because freewill exists.
July 8, 2015
I believe we have limited understanding. Our faculty has limitations and that causes strife. Like the animal that can only interpret our tone of voice but cannot understand our words. Like a tree that absorbs light and consumes water but has no idea what it looks like. There are spiritual things that our senses only pick up the essence of. Its a shame we have these limits but maybe there is an end to our limitations as we fade towards to infinity. Good and Bad are
the circumstances which lead to variety and risk. Those conditions allow us to have excitement and inquiry. I do believe there is a reason for inquiry, a goal intended by a higher entity. Knowing why good things happen to good people is easier to understand if you focus on why there is good and bad people...if we make everyone bad your problem is solved. If we make everyone good then bad things happen to everyone. That is the deal, bad things exist, dying exists, life exists, and questions exist.
Queens, NY
June 11, 2015
Your explanation doesn't make sense to me. Your example with the woman in labor proves it. If we didn't know why she was suffering, we may try to help her and do things to alleviate the suffereing. If we were not aware that such efforts may stop the birth of her baby how would that outcome be? If we can see the greater good in suffering , that will not stop us from having compassion and offering support. Much like a husband gives support to his wife in labor. He can be happy but support her and comfort her at the same time. In the end they become a family and experience the greatest of joys. Our efforts to stop suffereing we don't understand may also cause us to interfere with the greater good that is waiting to be born of the suffering. Understanding why can only give us information to make the best choices.
Lawrence C. Sullivan's! M.D.
May 14, 2015
If we do know the reason for innocent people'so suffering, then we can help them, and they won't suffer
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.
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