There’s a few answers to this deepest of deep spiritual questions. It’s a toughie, because it goes to the heart of how limited human understanding of God and His ways of relating to us really are.
According to most people’s logic, if we act ‘nice’, and try to do what God says, God in turn should act ‘nice’ with us, and send us a yacht or Mercedes, and a mansion, and good health, and our soulmate, and as many healthy, beautiful, happy children as we want.
And often, things can work out that way.
But not always. Sometimes, a person can be genuinely doing their best to give God what they think He actually wants, and still get hit with a whole bunch of suffering and difficulties. At that point, it’s human nature to start having questions about why apparently ‘bad’ things happen to apparently ‘good’ people.
So what’s really going on?
There’s a few answers – and I should make the point here that reams and reams have been written about this subject, so whatever I cover in one short post on the topic is inevitably going to be extremely simplistic.
But there are basically 3 main reasons why ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people, as follows:
Reason One: They are paying down a spiritual debt from a previous lifetime.
In the two stories I already posted up, that reason for ‘undeserved’ suffering hopefully came through loud and clear. We don’t know who we were or what we did last time round (or the time before that, or that time before that…)
This time round, we’re baking cookies for girl scouts and saving the planet, but maybe last time round we were Jack the Ripper. So often, the ‘bad’ things happen to pay down a debt we ran up when we were Jack the Ripper – and yes, we’re getting a DEEP discount on what we really owe, spiritually-speaking.
Reason Two: They actually aren’t as ‘good’ as they think they are, and the ‘bad’ thing isn’t actually so bad.
Human beings are subjective creatures. Most of us think we’re doing ‘pretty OK’ and that we’re ‘good people’ because we have a huge, built-in blind-spot when it comes to our own issues and bad character traits. What’s pushy and insensitive in another person is ‘go-getting’ and assertive when it comes to us. We can justify any bad thing we do, to any person, at any time.
(If you think I’m exaggerating, you should know that the Nazis firmly believed they were doing a ‘good’ thing by ridding the world of its Jewish inhabitants. The idea that they were evil mass-murderers didn’t cross their minds for a moment, quite the opposite.)
In tandem with this is that the ‘bad’ we’re experiencing always contains some hidden good, or silver lining, but that good is not always immediately obvious. In some instances, it’s never obvious, and you have to wait to you get Upstairs to be shown the good present in all our experiences, even the most negative.
But usually, if you hang on, believe that there’s some good hidden in your bad and continue to look for it, sooner or later you’ll find it.
Reason Three: They’re suffering on behalf of humanity, collectively
Thank God, most of us aren’t in this category. But throughout Jewish history, we’ve known many exceptionally pious people who chose to undergo terrible suffering in order to pay down the spiritual debt being run-up by the rest of the world’s inhabitants.
And these holy people still exist today, and are still undergoing excrutiating tests that they accept with love, because they’ve chosen to suffer to lighten things up for the rest of us. (If this is the first time you’ve heard of such a concept, trust me it doesn’t apply to you.)
So these are the 3 main reasons why apparently ‘bad’ things happen to apparently ‘good’ people. God-willing, I’ll return to this topic again in the future, but hopefully next time something tough occurs in your life, you’ll have a little more fortitude to know that you’re not being punished, and it’s not random suffering.
God still loves you unconditionally.
Just you’re being ‘fixed’ spiritually, and that’s really all.