I just finished the classic “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” and highly recommend it. God does not will or cause our suffering, Rabbi Harold Kushner says. God has created a world that is mostly good and orderly, but He does not control people’s behavior or micromanage forces of nature. Therefore pain, suffering, and injustice happen.
Our world is not perfect – a hard but necessary reality we must accept in order to avoid despair when confronted with suffering.
Acceptance is essential, but allowing others time to grieve is also necessary. It hurts people in pain further and adds to their sense of isolation when we try to explain away suffering, bring false cheer, or claim that a particular tragedy is somehow God’s will.
We must learn to sit in compassion with our pain and with that of others, allowing space to identify and verbalize what hurts. But in time, a journey to acceptance of the often unfair nature of reality is necessary for healing.
Kushner ends the book with thought-provoking questions:
“Are you capable of forgiving and accepting in love a world which has disappointed you by not being perfect, a world in which there is so much unfairness and cruelty, disease and crime, earthquake and accident? Can you forgive its imperfections and love it because it is capable of containing great beauty and goodness, and because it is the only world we have?
“Are you capable of forgiving and loving the people around you, even if they have hurt you and let you down by not being perfect? Can you forgive them and love them, because there aren’t any perfect people around, and because the penalty for not being able to love imperfect people is condemning oneself to loneliness?
“Are you capable of forgiving and loving God even when you have found out that He is not perfect, even when He has let you down and disappointed you by permitting bad luck and sickness and cruelty in His world, and permitting some of those things to happen to you? Can you learn to love and forgive Him despite His limitations, as Job does, and as you once learned to forgive and love your parents even though they were not as wise, as strong, or as perfect as you needed them to be?
“And if you can do these things, will you be able to recognize that the ability to forgive and the ability to love are the weapons God has given us to enable us to live fully, bravely, and meaningfully in this less-than-perfect world?”