Dear Rabbi

If a person loses a court case, or things seem to be going poorly for him, is that any indication that G‑d is displeased with the individual?


Most of us experience times when hardships seem to pile up, and it’s only natural to wonder if G‑d is sending us a message.

I found two passages, one from the Talmud and one from Maimonides, which may help answer your question.

According to the Talmud:

If one sees that troubles are befalling him, let him inspect his deeds; if he finds nothing to warrant them, he should attribute them to the neglect of Torah study; if this too is not there, he may know that these are “suffering due to love,” as it says (Proverbs 3:12), “he who G‑d loves does He chastise.”1

Maimonides writes:

It is a positive duty to cry out... for any trouble that may befall the community... This practice is one of the paths of repentance, when a difficulty arises, and the people cry out [to G‑d]... everyone realizes that it is on account of our wicked deeds that it has gone badly for us... This will bring about that this trouble will be removed. But if we do not cry out... but say “What has happened to us is merely a natural phenomenon and this difficulty is merely a chance occurrence,” this is a cruel conception of things, causing us to cleave to our evil deeds. Thus, this time of distress will lead to further distresses...2

We see from Maimonides’ explanation that suffering alerts us to the need to look at ourselves closely and assess our conduct. Difficulties give us a chance to consider that everything comes from G‑d. Hardship also allows us to practice introspection so that we might determine (on our own, or with the help of a mentor) which part of our conduct needs improvement.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains that hardship is a springboard for spiritual growth. G‑d is assisting us in recognizing our faults, arousing us to clean up our act, since, in His love for us, G‑d does not want us to maintain a destructive lifestyle in a spiritual wasteland. The anguish we find ourselves in is for our own benefit, and an indication of G‑d’s love for us.3

Thus, experiencing a good spell or bad period are not definite signals that G‑d is pleased or displeased with us. When something negative happens, it is a sign not of G‑d’s displeasure, but of His concern for our good. Using the negative experience as motivation for self-improvement is not to avoid punishment, but to hear the real message that G‑d is sending us, which is that He cares about our physical and spiritual well-being, and so should we.

I hope things turn around for you and the hardships are resolved quickly and painlessly.

See Is My Friend Sick Because He Sinned?