When Bad Things Happen To Good People
"We acquire the strength we have overcome." – Ralph Waldo Emerson
WHY ME? Who hasn’t asked this question? Life is unfair, we learn this from an early age – cheaters win & don’t get caught, and those who work the hardest don’t always get ahead. Good people contract terrible diseases through no fault of their own. Children die. There must be some answer to the seemingly senseless way that that which we love is torn from us, a reason and a purpose to our despair, hurt and pain. My Grandmother had an uncommon strength and an unparalleled wisdom, she never asked “why me”. She did not ask when she was picking cotton in the Oklahoma heat before the age of 12, she didn’t ask when she had to leave school (her favorite place) to go to work in a greasy diner in Texas at 14. When she was just 17 and lost her own Mother to an unexplained illness and just weeks later divorced an abusive alcoholic husband and fled with her young son across the country to find safety and start a new life on her own – she did not question the cards she had been dealt. When I asked her why she wasn’t angry about her lot in life, or when I complained about the unfairness & difficulties of my own, she would say, “We don’t live in God’s perfect creation, we live in the one where human beings have free will…bad things happen to good people Jennie Lenny, read the Rabbi’s book”. And so I now recommend it to you---"When bad things happen to good people" (see below).
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
By Harold S. Kushner (1981)--notes by Doug Muder (1997)
· Introduction, Why I wrote this book. Kushner wrote this book as a reaction to personal tragedy--his son Aaron had premature aging, which he died from. This provoked a crisis of faith for Kushner, who is a rabbi. He wrote this book for people "who have been hurt by life", to help them find a faith that can aid in getting through their troubles, rather than making things worse.
1. Why do the righteous suffer? A summary of all the too-easy answers to the question of human suffering, and why they are inadequate.
2. The story of a man named Job. Kushner presents his theological framework in the form of a re-interpretation of the story of Job. He lets go of the notion that God is all-powerful in favor of the notion that God is good.
The next four chapters flesh out Kushner's basic ideas by looking at three different causes of human suffering. In each case he takes the position that God does not cause the suffering and could not prevent it.
3. Sometimes there is no reason. This chapter covers random, circumstantial suffering, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kushner attributes the orderliness of the universe to God, but holds that the ordering of the universe is not complete: Some things are just circumstantial, and there is no point in looking for a reason for them.
4. No exceptions for nice people. Some suffering is caused by the workings of natural law. There is no moral judgment involved--natural law is blind, and God does not interfere with it. God does not intervene to save good people from earthquake or disease, and does not send these misfortunes to punish the wicked. Kushner puts great value on the orderliness of the universe's natural law, and would not want God to routinely intervene for moral reasons.
5. God leaves us room to be human. Some suffering is caused by the actions of evil people. Kushner re-interprets the story of Adam and Eve to make the point that the ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us human. For God to interfere with our ability to do evil would make all of us less human.
6. God helps those who stop hurting themselves. Some suffering we cause ourselves by the way we handle our initial suffering. We blame ourselves, or we take out our anger on the people who are trying to help us, or on God.
The second to last chapter answers the question: Given that God isn't all-powerful, what good is He?
7. God can't do everything, but he can do some important things. If God didn't cause our problems and can't fix them, why pray? Two reasons: The prayers of others can make us aware that we are not facing our problems alone. And God can give us the strength of character that we need to handle our misfortunes, if we are willing to accept it.