I have no idea why bad things happen to good people. I also have no idea why good things happen to bad people. I just know that they do. I do not believe that these events are tests from God. I do not believe that the purpose of suffering is to make us better people. I do believe, though, that our task in this world is to alleviate suffering as much as possible, and to create a world of fairness, justice and compassion. I believe God is with us in these pursuits, even when it is hard to feel God’s presence at the moment.
Some problems in the world are entirely human made. We fight wars because of greed or fear of those who are different from us. We lack compassion and sensitivity for those in difficult financial, physical and mental situations. We pollute the air, water, and ground (I am not going to get into the specifics of the actual ecological issues, but I think it is fair to say that we could treat the earth more kindly). Even our food chain is often compromised. The list of human misery is endless, but we could fix them if we approached that list with compassion and resolve. We might be angry at God for not intervening, but the cause of these problems are clearly human.
Some tragedies are caused by nature. The number of natural disasters that lead to a loss of life and great displacement of people from their homes is staggering, though fast becoming numbing. There is not much that can be done to prevent them, though scientists are becoming better at predicting occurrences. Again, one could be angry at God, but most of us understand that world was created with certain basic laws of physics, and there is going to be a shift in tectonic plates, and other natural events which really are nothing personal. Anyone living in that region at that time would be affected.
Illness, though, is the hardest thing to reconcile. It feels personal, even if there is a scientific basis. Serious illness feels unfair; and it is. I do not believe that God sends illness because of sin. Otherwise there would be illness sent to child beaters, spouse abusers, and drug dealers.
I do not believe that God sends illness as a test of our faith. That would be cruelty, not religion.
What I do believe from the depths of my heart is that our role as human beings is to be there for those who need us. There are no magic words we can say to make things all better, but our thoughts, and prayers, and love can be a source of courage and strength to those who need it.
I am always so moved by the depths of love and compassion that emerge when we hear of people going through hard times. We could change the entire world if we could maintain those feelings all the time, and share them with others.
When we go through a difficult time it feels like we are the only ones doing so. We need to keep in mind, though, that every minute of every day, someone is suffering. We may not be able to solve all the problems, or fix the entire world, but we can each make a part of it better. For me, then, the real question is not why do bad things happen, but what are we going to do about it?