Credit Adam for sin, God with hope
James Bailey, pastor, Southside Church of Christ, 1105 W. 25th St.:
Short answer: God doesn’t. Suffering came into the world as the consequence of sin (Romans 5:12). It is understandable that seeing the suffering around us causes us to question its origin. And since God is the origin of all things, we tend to want to blame God for suffering. However, suffering is the effect of sin being in our world. Someone drinks, does drugs, gambles and then some tragedy strikes. Maybe a child is hurt, or a home is lost, and although no lasting harm comes to the addict, the tragedy is the result of the sin involved.
Perhaps it is a disease, cancer or some other terrible malady. Once again, when sin entered the world, mankind began to die. We became susceptible to the effect of decay and disease on our bodies. Is it horrific to witness someone in pain? Absolutely! But we dare not blame God. We are witnessing the second law of thermodynamics.
Are there accidents that make people hurt? Sure. They happen because we humans don’t make good decisions, take chances or someone else did these things and we suffer from what they did. By design, there are certain things our human bodies cannot withstand. As they say, “If it hurts you when you do that, don’t do that!”
Do not overlook the fact that some suffering is necessary for our future safety. Touch a hot stove, and you probably won’t do it again.
And there is hope in the fact, that God has promised that for a Christian, one day all suffering will give way to peace in heaven. (Revelation 21:4) And there is ample evidence that God can also use the suffering we experience to bring us closer to him and his care.
You can blame Adam for the suffering, and you can rely on God for the hope.
— Send e-mail to James Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humans don’t need to know the answer
Zalman Tiechtel, rabbi, Chabad Jewish Community Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
The big question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” has been asked again and again throughout our history. Why is this world so unfair; why do so many among us need to experience pain and suffering?
In truth, however, are we truly sure that we want an explanation? Do we really want to know why the innocent suffer? I think not. We may be far better off with the question than with an answer.
We are bothered by the fact that people suffer undeservedly, as we should be. Any person with an ounce of moral sensitivity is outraged by the injustices of our world. But what if we found the answer? What if someone came along and gave us a satisfying explanation? What if the mystery were finally solved? What if we asked why and actually got an answer?
If this ultimate question were answered, then we would be able to make peace with the suffering of innocents. And that is unthinkable. Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that’s exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening.
And so, if we could make sense of innocent people suffering, if we could rationalize tragedy, then we could live with it. We would be able to hear the cry of sweet children in pain and not be horrified. We would tolerate seeing broken hearts and shattered lives, for we would be able to neatly explain them away. Our question would be answered, and we could move on.
But as long as the pain of innocents remains a burning question, we are bothered by its existence. And as long as we can’t explain pain, we must alleviate it. If innocent people suffering does not fit into our world view, we must eradicate it. Rather than justifying their pain, we need to get rid of it.
So keep asking the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? But stop looking for answers. Start formulating a response. Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good. Redirect your frustration with injustice and unfairness and channel it into a drive to fight injustice and unfairness. Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering wherever you can.
We don’t want answers, we don't want explanations and we don’t want closure. We want an end to suffering. And we dare not leave it up to God to alleviate suffering. He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.
— Send e-mail to Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel at Rabbi@JewishKU.com.