A rabbi named Harold Cushner once wrote a popular book called, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. He struck a nerve with people of many faiths. (It’s also interesting to speculate on why good things happen to bad people, but that’s another conversation….)
I think we all wonder at times why bad things happen, when we have a good and loving God at the heart of things. Was it something I said? Something I did wrong? Jesus addresses this issue directly. He mentions two recent horrors in his own world: Pilate had murdered Galileans and desecrated some Jewish blood sacrifices; and in Jerusalem, a tower called Siloam collapsed and killed eighteen people.
Jesus asks the question we ask in our hearts: did these people somehow sin and deserve their horrible fates? Jesus’ answer is no. Bad things happen when we do not deserve them…that seems to be a risk that comes with human freedom, and a condition of the creation we live in. With the beauties and joys of life comes vulnerability to misfortune, whether naturally occurring or by human agency.
Our faith can and will be sorely tested when we witness, and experience, gratuitous evil in our lives – the cancer at a young age, the freak accident that leaves us paraplegic, the random shooting that kills a child on the street. How do we keep our faith in a good and loving God?
We also face a world with huge, intractable problems with poverty and disease, where violence kills thousands and leaves refugees homeless; where we continue to pollute the earth and sky and use up resources. Sometimes this leaves me with little hope for the future. But I fight that sense of hopelessness; it is the enemy of faith in God, and it is paralyzing. Let us be real about the problems of the world, but also claim the power of God to move us forward to greater peace, greater generosity, greater wholeness. Let us lift up every sign of God’s work: of healing, of resurrection from death, of reconciliation of enemies. Let us, with all our might, hold fast to that which is good. JBM