Years ago I read a book entitled “When Bad Things Happen To Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. It was a best seller in 1981 and the Rabbi wrote it when he was facing a very difficult time. The health of someone he loved dearly was in jeopardy and he spent hours asking God how such a bad thing could happen. Since he was a Rabbi he naturally felt compelled to keep his concerns and his relationship with God at the center of his questions.
I suspect that we have all struggled with personal tragedies and wondered how God could let something bad happen to good people. Fear and pain begin to push hope and faith away and we can really hit a spiritual wall. Rabbi Kushner chose to keep the faith in spite of the serious questions and doubts he had.
I can’t quote his entire book, but here is a short excerpt from it.
“I believe in God. But I do not believe the same things about Him that I did years ago, when I was growing up or when I was a theological student. I recognize His limitations. He is limited in what He can do by laws of nature and by the evolution of human nature and human moral freedom.
I no longer hold God responsible for illnesses, accidents, and natural disasters, because I realize that I gain little and I lose so much when I blame God for those things. I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it, more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die, for whatever exalted reason.
God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws.
The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God’s part. Because the tragedy is not God’s will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are.”
Rabbi Kushner’s bottom line is that when God’s children suffer, God cries with them. The opposite is also true. When God’s children are joyful, so is God. Don’t try to do the math on that one; it doesn’t work that way. Just accept the intimate love that God has for each of us.