Thursday, August 16, 2012

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I decided to read this book for several reasons:
  • Depending on the day, I can become bitter, depressed, or elated based on my surroundings. I realize I am free to do whatever I please because I have no children, thus creating a state of excitement for the next adventure! Or the reverse happens and I see a pregnant teenager or hear a woman complaining about her kids and then I am reminded we have been given (for lack of a better word), a sucky situation.
  • Life has been rough, I guess this is adulthood?
  • I have suffered a loss, whether others see it that way or not, I really don't care. Something was a part of me for 9 weeks and it was life changing to have it taken away.
  • My mom said when she lost her dad (she was my age), her pastor told her to read this book. I now want to buy it so we can share it in the family.  
  • The Colorado shootings and those families upset me and made me question this world we live in, how awful for those people to have to endure such evil.
  • I started to question my faith and beliefs once we started working with our reproductive endocrinologist. There hasn't been an appointment yet where I haven't left crying from the emotional stress it can cause, but yet there is still this atmosphere of hope for us. Once the crying is done, I feel once again elated because there is so much of LIFE to look forward to, kids or not.
  • Try as I may each day to make some sense out of this world, I still needed these mixed up feelings put into perspective.
So I started reading, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". The author, Harold Kushner, an American Rabbi who lost his son at at early age to progeria, wrote this book about the "problem of evil" and human suffering in the world. I have great respect for him, because he questions everything and researches out his faith to make it stronger. My faith has grown stronger because of this book, I found myself teary eyed throughout it, touched by a comforting spirit.

Let me start out by sharing quotes from the book (they are in purple), and adding my own thoughts.

"But if Man is truly free to choose, if he can show himself as being virtuous by freely choosing the good when the bad is equally possible, then he has to be free to choose the bad also. If he were only free to do good, he would not really be choosing. If we are bound to do good, then we are not free to choose it." 
This is an LDS belief we discuss frequently in Sunday School lessons or other meetings, the idea of free agency or the power to choose over good and evil. When horrific events like the Aurora shooting happen, people like to say "everything happens for a reason, the Lord has a plan" or "the Lord needed them to be with Him in heaven more than we needed them on earth." Kushner suggests an idea that maybe the Lord has nothing to do with it. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord looks down at us as we hurt each other, envy each other, and even kill, because we have created that world, not Him.  
Sometimes, when people are diagnosed with cancer or a life changing event occurs, people love to say that phrase, "The Lord only gives us what we can handle." Why believe in a God who would inflict cancers on children? Because they can "handle it"?? It doesn't make any sense and Kushner blasts that idea with this, "The God I believe in does not send us the problem; He gives us the strength to cope with it."
Now, with that said, when people are suffering or going through a hard time, the Christians in us want to be optimistic, we want to encourage them, so we say things like the above. What we REALLY should be doing is acknowledging their hurt. Just validate their situation is awful, just validate it. Don't say things like "you will make a great mother one day, it'll happen when you least expect it" (like I have heard from atleast 15 people in the past 6 months).  
“One of the basic needs of every human being is the need to be loved, to have our wishes and feelings taken seriously, to be validated as people who matter.” 
One of my favorite stories in the book was a Chinese tale of a woman whose only son died. She sought help from a holy man and asked for a way to bring her son back to life. Instead, he told her to find a magical mustard seed which would take away all her pain. She was to go to homes who have never had any suffering or pain, they would have the mustard seed she needed. As she went to each house, asking for the seed, people said, "this is the wrong house, we are sad as well" and shared with her their problems. Soon she was giving them comfort and forgot all about her own problems.  
"If you concentrate on finding whatever is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."

Kushner speaks of a loving God who doesn't hurt the world with violence so that we can "become better people" or hand out cancer tumors like candy because those people can "handle more than others". No, the Lord is watching down on us with a sad heart, wanting us only to turn to Him and ask for a helping hand. He is there to lift us up.

Only then when we give in to faith and praise DURING the trial, then we truly feel our Savior's love and become better people. He cannot control the calamities of this world, but He can be there to left us up, to put the people we need in our lives for support, to be the GOOD that exists in the world, which is where the Lord resides.

This is one of my favorite LDS art pieces of Christ's Second Coming, I thought it was appropriate to share with this book and topic.