Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

That question has haunted religious people for thousands of years. I remember reading Rabbi Kushner’s book When Bad Things Happen to Good People when I was in high school and I was disappointed by his conclusion. His answer to that question? Because God is limited. He’d like to help, but sometimes He can’t.

Seriously? That’s not an answer I can accept. God does not have limits.

There are many books on this subject, struggling to give an answer to this perplexing problem. We want to believe that if we do good things, good things come to us. If we do bad, bad will come to us.

And I do think that’s generally true, but it can’t usually be seen on the micro-level. If we’re looking at things that happen within, say, a 50 year span, that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the infinity of time. We can’t always see the threads of action and consequences because we’re limited to looking at where we are right now and a short space behind us. But the past no longer matters. We can create our future by acting in the present. Did you know that this poem is a translation from Sanskrit?

Yesterday is but a dream

Tomorrow a vision

But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

Really, though, I have a problem with the question itself. What is “bad”?

It’s not that easy to define. Something that makes you unhappy? You control how you feel. While one person might be upset about a thunder storm because it will mess up her hair, someone else is delighted because her grass needs water. As Hamlet said, “Things are neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” It is our perceptions that decide something is bad.

There are a few things that people tend to agree are bad. The big ones like rape, murder, children dying. If one of those things happens in your life, does it mean you deserve it? Your karma gave it to you? I don’t believe so.

I believe that there is something to be learned from the situation. It isn’t there to make you miserable or to punish you, but to guide you towards a Truth.

There are things that you go through to burn imperfections from you, allowing your True Self to shine through more clearly.

Rabbi Kushner was inspired to write his book because of the death of his son. Why would God allow a child to die? It’s incredibly difficult to figure that one out if you believe that the child just started from scratch the moment it was born. It dies at one year old, and it never had the chance to experience life. What’s the point in that? But if you realize that we all have always been and will always be, we have no beginning and no end, then you know that child’s soul will still have the chance to experience everything life has to offer in another embodiment  Bodies are just clothes and taking them off does not hurt us.

When something happens in my life that I think is bad, here is the process my mind goes through:

  • Why do I consider this bad? Is there another way to look at it? Is it my limited perspective that labels this as bad?
  • Does it have a clear root or cause? Does it seem to have happened because of something I did? If so, adjust that behavior and try to do differently next time.
  • If not, is there some insight that this experience can give me?

Life will keep guiding you sometimes gently and sometimes forcefully towards learning, so don’t worry if you’ve missed the lesson. You’ll have infinite chances to find Truth!

You may also enjoy my post on whether evil exists: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu/2013/01/is-there-evil/

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About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.


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