In this article by John Culbertson, we took a look at and try to understand how to deal with the notion of why bad things happen to good people.
When things go wrong or not according to plan or our wishes, we look for someone to blame. This is human nature. This is how our mind works which is conditioned by the laws of society. When a crime is committed, it is important to find the criminal and punish them. So that justice is served. So you have the usual suspects—from petty thieves to rapists and cruel tyrants—who deserve to be incarcerated for their demeanor. But we are at a loss about what to do in the absence of a perpetrator. We do not understand why bad things that happen to good people.
When tragedy strikes such as floods, a hurricane or an earthquake, we cannot single out a criminal who caused this. Even when we face misfortune on a different lever such as the loss of a limb in an accident or the tragic death of a loved one, we try to seek solace using our understanding of cause and effect.
Why are we suffering? Is it because we have committed some sin and are being punished for it? In the absence of being unable to single out a perpetrator, we turn our attention to God. Isn’t God omniscient and therefore responsible for whatever happens?
There Should be an Explanation for Every Action
We turn to the philosophical argument of cause and effect where an event is always the consequence of something that is either done because of intent or by accident. We think faith or our understanding of an omniscient superior being or God is the only way we know how to explain, why bad things happen to good people? In fact, the association of our good fortune and our fate with an omniscient and omnipotent Supreme Being has been conditioned by the way it has been interpreted by literary works over the centuries.
Shakespeare echoed this sentiment through the Duke of Gloucester in King Lear, when he says “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.” The gods in this reference are portrayed as whimsical and frivolous no less responsible than immature boys. A more responsible and wise God is described in the Book of Job. Job was an extremely pious and righteous man. It was Satan’s contention that Job is good only because he has been blessed by good fortune. He argued that if God tested him put him in a position where he was not protected by the comforts of good fortune, he would change. So in a dramatic turn of events, everything that Job possessed including his children are taken away from him.
The story is often cited as a fable that expresses the notion that when bad things happen to good people such as it did in Job’s case, it is God’s way of testing our faith.
The Answer Lies Within Us.
When a personal tragedy changed his life, Harold Kushner wrote a very inspirational book called ‘When bad things happen to good people.’ The wisdom contained in the book is not that it provides answers but that it shows us why it is important to ask the right questions. Instead of asking why did something happen, can we rise above and beyond our own selfish perspective that limits our understanding and tell ourselves, what do I do now that this has happened?
You can try to find the answer to the question why bad things happen to good people by trying to second guess fate or assume that something happens for a reason. It is similar to the Gordian knot. While everyone tried in vain to unravel the Gordian knot, the Greek King, Alexander cut the knot with a sword. There are myriad interpretations of what the sword metaphor indicates. You can call it clarity of thought, singularity of purpose, wisdom, razor-sharp reason or plain faith, if you will. Whatever it is, it is this indescribable quality that will allow us to rise above the confusion that we wallow in by asking a question for which we know we cannot find a plausible or satisfactory answer unless we look for it within our own self.