There are some strange stories seen over the past several months. They include the strong, sudden winds that blew over a tent Saturday afternoon outside St. Louis, Missouri leaving one (1) dead and one-hundred (100) injured, at least four critically; over one-hundred (100) tornados that struck Kansas in April; the gay man beaten by gang members in Atlanta while another was beaten and set on fire in Texas.
So this begs the millennium old question, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
Pain and suffering incorporates a diverse new thinking into faith. Some claim God chooses pain and suffering as a form of faith enrichment while may state it’s a form of punishment.
Christian scholars claim God uses suffering as a method to reveal Himself to us. Through each trial He gives us a little more than the time before and can embrace our pain and draw close to the One who loves our soul. According to St. Paul, Christians should rejoice in suffering because it produces endurance, hope and character.
For a Buddhist, all of life is suffering and suffering is caused by attachments to worldly things. This attachment, takes the form of greed, hatred, and ignorance and can return as more suffering (karma). Many Muslims believe suffering and adversity strengthen one’s faith and often leads to repentance, prayer and good deeds. In Judaism, it is believed that suffering is caused by a weakness in one’s devotion to God and by allowing deep suffering of the innocent; it must be good even if mysterious.
Upon remembering a friend’s passing some time ago, I overheard the comment, “His passing was part of God’s plan.”
To this I respond with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield’s comments from “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero:”
You want plan? Then tell me about plan. But if you’re going to tell me about how the plan saved you, you better also be able to explain how the plan killed them. And the test of that has nothing to do with saying it in your synagogue or your church. The test of that has to do with going and saying it to the person who just buried someone and look in their eyes and tell them God’s plan was to blow your loved one apart. Look at them and tell them that God’s plan was that their children should go to bed every night for the rest of their lives without a parent. And if you can say that, well, at least you’re honest. I don’t worship the same God, but that at least has integrity.
It’s just it’s too easy. That’s my problem with the answer. Not that I think they’re being inauthentic when people say it or being dishonest, it’s just too damn easy. It’s easy because it gets God off the hook. And it’s easy because it gets their religious beliefs off the hook. And right now, everything is on the hook.
In the time of great persecution and suffering, when life ends, to demonize others, to dehumanize others, to assert they have “no soul,” is to recreate the same mentality that caused the attack. We can are justifiably angered, but for humanity’s sake, we must rise above petty revenge. Let us use this as an opportunity to raise our community to greater compassion.
From a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or Atheist perspective, all I can say is that’s very difficult to see God help when we face such great trials. Yet God provides each, and we reach for each other in those definitive moments, as human being to human being, to be there, to help, to help us. But this reaching is very Buddhist and very Christian.
Pain and suffering will ever be completely explained. All of us walk an unknown path, struggling through the thorns, but through that suffering we grow stronger and more connected to the source of all creation.