Why do bad things happen to good people? – my thoughts

question markSome people have commented that it’s not fair that so many difficult things have happened to our family in the recent past.  I don’t agree – I think we each get what we’re meant to get, and what’s fair is what we get.

I also think that I’ve been very, very lucky.  My burns were extremely painful and traumatic, but it could have been much, much worse.  When I went to the burn specialist in Jerusalem and she heard what happened, she told me that wax usually penetrates through an additional layer of skin; if this would have happened I would have had third degree rather than second degree burns.  She couldn’t explain why this didn’t happen to me.

When I got home from the hospital it  was the first time I could see the small details of my face very close up, since in the hospital there was a counter between me and the mirror.  At home I was able to see what the staff was referring to when they repeatedly said how lucky I was.  I knew that the only place not burned was around my eyes, but I didn’t realize how very close to my eyes it was – just a centimeter and a half at the most around each eye.  One eye didn’t even have that much.  God was very kind to me.

Someone at the hotel who I had just met told me she read about me in the Pesach issue of the Hebrew language Mishpacha magazine and gave me her copy so I could read the article myself.  When I spoke with the  interviewer about six weeks before the issue came out, the woman told me she enjoyed speaking to me but didn’t think what I said would fit in with her angle.  She later called me and told me that she rarely hears someone speaking the way that I did, that she was so inspired that she decided to write up some of what I shared with her.   I’m usually not sure what people are referring to when they say that I inspired them, but in this case I think it was my attitude toward seemingly negative events.  

After we moved to Israel, our peaceful and pleasant life was turned upside down.  It was a marathon of challenges, and every time I would think things were about to get easier, they got worse.  Some people have asked me if I’m sorry if I made aliyah, since it’s unlikely any of these difficulties would have occurred if we stayed in the US.  My answer – and this is what I shared with the interviewer- is that I’m very glad we moved to Israel, despite the challenges.  It’s true that I wouldn’t have had these difficulties if we hadn’t come, but I’m sure we would have been sent different challenges instead.

Why am I so sure of that?  I believe we are each a soul given a body so that we can actualize our mission in this world.  The problem is that while the soul knows why it was put here, the physical self  is generally oblivious to having a soul.  It would be hopeless for us to hook into our spiritual selves and accomplish this mission if we were left to our own devices, but God sends us regular reminders and nudges towards our mission every day via the circumstances of our lives.  Sometimes they’re smaller and sometimes they’re bigger.

Everything that happens to us is meant to bring us closer to our soul’s purpose, and everything we are given is a tool to help us. Sometimes our tools includes wealth, beauty, loving family and friends.  Sometimes it doesn’t include any of those.  Every person has a unique mission and has the tools he needs for his mission.  Sometimes we veer off course and things happen to help us get back on track, to move us closer to our mission.  Sometimes we misread the messages and they get sent to us again and again in different ways until we get the message.  Those messages usually come cloaked as difficulties.

What about the pain and suffering we sometimes – often – experience?  Hard things happen to all of us.  Sometimes It can feel painful and horrendous.  Sometimes we cry and scream, and ask why did this happen to us, why are we being punished.  That’s our perception and it’s valid.  But it’s not complete.

If a parent yanks his child’s arm painfully hard to pull him out of the path of a truck barreling towards him at high speed, is the parent being cruel?  Is he punishing his child?  Most of us would agree that inflicting this short-lived pain on his child is the most loving thing this parent could do, because the alternative would be so much worse.  

I believe that God loves us more than we can imagine, and everything He does comes from a place of love.  (I was recently speaking with someone whose husband was killed on a bus that was blown up by a suicide bomber, and she agreed with me that there are things that you can say about your own situation but others shouldn’t tell you.  This is one of those things – when someone told me a day after my accident that it happened because God loves me so much, I told her that I know God loves me very much – but that I didn’t appreciate her comment because my knee jerk reaction to it was negative.)  I believe my accident was an act of kindness for me, to help me shift out of the thinking that was taking me in the wrong direction, and realign myself in a way that will bring me more happiness and contentment.

If everything that happens comes from a place of love and for our ultimate good, can it be bad?  My personal belief is that no, it can’t.  It can feel bad.  But it can’t be bad.  

This thought has helped me tremendously in difficult circumstances.

I don’t pretend to have a wide angle view on why things happen to me, let alone to anyone else.  That’s not my realm and it’s not necessary.  I relate best to the concept of a tapestry – on one side, it looks like a bunch of knots that seem random and ugly.  Turn it around and look at it close up and even when looking at the correct side, all you can see are specks of color that still seem random.  It’s only when you look at it from a distance that you can see the whole picture, and the picture is breathtakingly beautiful.  And all of a sudden, the knots and randomness all makes sense, as it becomes clear that each tiny detail had to be there for the tapestry to be complete.


14 thoughts on “Why do bad things happen to good people? – my thoughts

  1. I totally agree, Avivah. I think modern living has made people feel they are in control and they expect things to go as they would like them to. If you are sick – a doctor will “fix” it. If you work hard, you will earn a living. If it doesn’t rain – we will import water from Turkey, etc. Then when something goes “wrong” people are angry at G-d.

    I have seen that everyone goes through challenges, and that is Hashem’s way of bringing us to our tachlis – what we are supposed to achieve in our lives. It is wonderful that you can see these challenges for what they are – ways to grow and become close to Hashem.

    I wish you a refua sheleima, and that you have already experienced all the yissurim (suffering) you need to have experienced to acquire Eretz Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael nikneit b’yissurim. And from now on all your family will have health, happiness, and parnassa tova.

    1. Miriam, I very strongly agree with you that we’ve come to believe that we have much more control of our lives than we actually do. We forget that we can make the effort but the results aren’t in our hands.

  2. Does it seem strange if a complete stranger pops up on the internet and says they love you ? If so, let me reframe – I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now, have since caught up an all your years of writing, and there is rarely a post that does not fill me with gratitude that I have found you and that you keep writing and sharing your thoughts with the world. I am so sorry whenever I hear that you have had a hard time, but so glad when I see with how much wisdom and grace you emerge through the crisis. I rarely comment, but probably should more often, even if it is just to say “thank you”.

    So, thank you, Avivah – you don’t know me, I only know of you what you choose to share with the online world – but you have been a shining light in my life over the last couple of years, and I only hope that at some point in the future I can pay this forward by lighting up the way for someone else and helping others learn the way you helped me.

  3. Thank you so much for your insight. My face, eyes, and arm were burned 3 weeks ago when cosmetic wax exploded in my face, too. My eyesight is back to normal now and I am healing just fine. I kept asking God “WHY, WHY, WHY?”, and then I realized the same thing you did- that I needed to shift my thinking. Reading your blog has given me a lot of comfort. You’re perspective is so meaningful and encouraging. Thank you.

    1. Sara, I am so, so sorry to hear about your burns.

      I’m really glad what I shared here was encouraging for you. May you have a complete and quick physical recovery along with a soul that is more beautiful than ever!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP-SpamFree by Pole Position Marketing