In his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner raises the issue of the embarrassing reaction of relief we feel when something bad happens to someone else when it might have happened to us: the soldier killed in combat next to his friend and comrade; the child in trouble for copying another’s work. And many of us, on seeing a motorist pulled over by the highway patrrol, have experienced that embarrassing spasm of gratitude that it happened to someone else.
We look for a reason it happened to him/her and not to me. Blaming the victim can make the evil not so irrational or threatening. Blaming the victim can be a reassurance that the world is not really such a bad place: there are good reasons for people’s suffering; fortunate people are not simply lucky- they deserve that good fortune; and so on. Everyone feels better except victim who experiences a double suffering – social abuse as well as their original misfortune.
Job’s wife urges him to curse God and die. If our world seems to be crashing around us, if it seems that life is a mess, then at some stage the question is almost certain to arise: how does God rule? God and the world are seen by many in terms of three basic statements:
* God is all loving
* God is all powerful
* Pain and suffering are real
How do we reconcile these? Indeed, can they be reconciled? If God is all powerful, how come there is suffering – unless God not very loving? If God is all loving, how come there is suffering and pain – unless God not all powerful? Since pain and suffering are a reality, is God not all loving?
As Job discovered, God is to be known not displays of strength but rather through a loving relationship, initiated by God.
(Adapted from a sermon from some years ago, which may have drawn on material from other, long-forgotten, sources.)
Jeff Shrowder, 2012.
More for Sunday 27B…