By Klaus Döring
… to a good person. A simple statement or answer could be: bad things happen for the same reason anything happens. “We could bear nearly any pain or disappointment if we thought there was a reason behind it, a purpose, to it.” – a quotation by Rabbi Harold Kushner from his book ” When Bad Things Happen to Good People”.
We live in a world of pain and suffering. There is no one who is not affected by the harsh realities of life, and the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” is one of the most difficult questions in all of theology. God is sovereign, so all that happens must have at least been allowed by Him, if not directly caused by Him. At the outset, we must acknowledge that human beings, who are not eternal, infinite, or omniscient, cannot expect to fully understand God’s purposes and ways.
Dr. Ralph Lewis, U.S. psychiatrist, stressed it as follows: “As a meaning-seeking species, we tend to process events in terms of what they mean to us: is it good or bad for us? And it is a human habit to infer deliberate intention to events in self-referential ways. “Why did this happen?” and “Why me?” are therefore natural and common questions asked by many people when faced with a sudden adverse event, such as a diagnosis of cancer. “What did I do to deserve this? Did I do something to cause it?” Many people are inclined to wonder if they are being punished by God for some past transgressions, or to ponder if there is some intended mysterious plan or higher reason for their misfortune, perhaps some intended lesson in their suffering.”
Back to Harold S. Kushner being a rabbi, with a spiritual perspective that’s both simple and enlightening. Still, it’s his personal experience of tragedy that makes him a comforting fellow traveler for anyone holding deep hurt. Rabbi Harold S. Kushner’s son, died of progeria at 14 years of age. Progeria is a very rare genetic disorder that quickly leads a child to age, leading to death by late childhood or early teens. Kushner’s experience as a rabbi, means that he has a deep understanding of theology; however, he was somewhat at a loss in the face of tragedy.
II always like to use the bible to help. Sure is, that nobody suffered more and nobody deserved it less. The Book of Job reads like a detective story in which the readers know far more than the central characters. It helps to think of this book as a courtroom drama, full of long, eloquent speeches. Like all grieving persons, Job went through emotional crises. He whined, exploded, cajoled and collapsed in self-pity.
Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in a position somewhat like Job’s. Our world seems to crumble apart. Nothing makes sense any more. God seems distant and silent. At such moments of great crisis, each one of us is put on trial. In a sense we become actors in a contest like the one Job went through.
Why do bad things happen to good people? As hard as it is to acknowledge, we must remember that there are no “good” people, in the absolute sense of the word. All of us are tainted by and infected with sin (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). As Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone” (Luke 18:19). All of us feel the effects of sin in one way or another. Sometimes it’s our own personal sin; other times, it’s the sins of others. We live in a fallen world, and we experience the effects of the fall. One of those effects is injustice and seemingly senseless suffering.
God allows things to happen for a reason. Whether or not we understand His reasons, we must remember that God is good, just, loving, and merciful (Psalm 135:3). Often, bad things happen to us that we simply cannot understand. Instead of doubting God’s goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). We walk by faith, not by sight.