“Why do bad things happen?”
“Why is there suffering in the world?”
My friend John Shore addressed his version of this question earlier this week in his blog entry entitled: “How can I believe in God, when so many innocent people suffer?” From John I am learning, among other things, that I have a great deal more to understand about the proper use of commas.
I would have answered this question differently in my younger days, and I have taken a different track than did John, but life has a way of teaching important lessons along the way, if we are open – and willing – to paying attention.
Two years ago our family lost a beloved family member who was also a dear personal friend. She was vibrant. Creative. Full of life. Her children were fourteen and sixteen at the time. She had a wonderful husband and a rewarding career. And in a tragic and strange accident, she died.
As I said at the time, “The most despicable thing about the unforeseen is that it gives no warning.”
Grief has a way of making some things vividly clear. What was clear to me then was that the familiar platitudes from my youth about God having a plan or that she was in a better place or it must have been God’s will or we could look forward to seeing her again one day were not a comfort and should be among the things never uttered to the grieving.
What I learned from that experience is that some things make no sense.
Why do bad things happen?
Because they do. Because that’s life. Because good and bad things happen to us all. It is part of being alive. It is the nature of the human experience. It’s the cost of admission.
This is the lesson in the Bible from the book of Job that is too often missed: It’s not about why. It’s about what invariably happens to us all and how we are going to handle it when it does. It’s about what is.
For me, the comfort came in knowing that God or The Divine or The Universe or Karma is not the cause of our suffering, but, rather, the Divine Presence, in some way, grieves with us as we go through it and sends us wise guides and kind souls to navigate us through – not some day – but here and now. If we find meaning in our suffering in the process of negotiating our way to the other side of our grief, so be it. But the meaning and the lessons are not why it happened; they are the result.
As our minister so often says: “We have an up to us privilege of choosing not what happens to us in this life, but how we react to it.” and “The right question isn’t ‘Why do bad things happen?’ but rather ‘Why, when we live in a world where we have been given all that we need to survive and the gift of each other, have we not yet learned how to share what we have and live together in peace?’”
How we react to our own suffering and that of others that works to reduce ongoing suffering in the here and now, for me: That’s where God is.
I posted this on John’s blog to which a commenter asked: “What is the opposite of freedom? Is that a life without suffering?”
To which I responded…
The opposite of freedom is living in unreality. There is truth – and freedom – in knowing the truth will set you free.
Intellectually, we know sickness happens, accidents occur and everyone dies. We know this. It’s just that we also think that it’s not supposed to happen to us or to someone we love or until we are very old; and very old keeps getting older the older we get.
Into every life some rain will fall.
It’s pointless to be pissed that it rains.
Carl Jung said: “Neurosis (living in unreality) is always a [poor] substitute for legitimate suffering.”
And M. Scott Peck: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” *
Another smart person: The sum of human unhappiness rests in wanting things to be not as they are.
We struggle against reality in vain.
Acceptance of What Is is the first step to freedom.
Our neighbors cut down their one hundred year old trees.
Our dog goes wild whenever anyone comes home.
Our son has Dyslexia.
People we love get sick and die.
I have thus far found little comfort in the hope that the lost paradise will one day be restored. I have found a great deal of peace, however, in accepting that it does, and will, more often then we would like, rain.
Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.
* from The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck. A Touchstone Book. Simon and Schuster.1978.