If God is good, how do you explain the tragic deaths of the 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this past Saturday? Or, the lesser publicized yet equally tragic deaths oftwo African-Americans shot at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky last week? I was asked this question today by a young man who worked as a technician for the local cable company. Both of those incidences had one thing in common: hate.
Sometimes the question is framed, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I faced this question when one of my nephews was killed in a senseless act of violence over 15 years ago. It is a challenging question for one who believes in the goodness of an all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere-present God. There is no ready-made answer.
For those who follow the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom Teachings, we start with the premise that God does not have human qualities that orchestrate and manipulate events. Rather, God is a presence that affirms and enhances life, and we have the choice to either align or not with this life-affirming and life-enhancing presence. Tragic events like what took place at the Tree of Life synagogue or at the Kroger supermarket are not the result of some disconnected stranger doing something evil; these occurrences were carried out by human beings who have forgotten who they are.
Moreover, how we perceive an event at any given moment determines what it becomes for us. That perception depends on what has influenced us throughout life – be it school, society, friends, family or the media. From our limited human understanding we see something as bad or good and believe it to be true. But when the same thing can be seen from a transcendent point of view, we may realize a deeper truth.
Most of us are familiar with the Taoist Story of a farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"Maybe," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"Maybe," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"Maybe," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"Maybe," said the farmer.
Now this story cannot give us a totally satisfactory answer to the question posed at the beginning of this writing, but it is a start. Our own inner attempts to explain existence in terms of itself and strictly on a human emotional or intellectual level will fail us. This is especially so when we try to explain or justify accidents, tragedies and suffering in life on the basis that life events are an end in and of themselves.
Put another way, it is futile to try to explain certain happenings in life by taking them at face value. This is why the Rabbi and master teacher Jesus the Christ said, “do not judge by appearances.” A certain accident or incident we don’t like may not be satisfactorily explained on its own terms when seen as a separate and independent phenomenon. All through history, humankind has gone through this sort of thing and gotten nowhere. Sickness happens, rejection happens, financial setbacks happen, death and tragedy happen on the three-dimensional plane. We may ponder, reason, justify, blame, judge and resent. We do so usually in vain because we look for an explanation for a negative event in terms of negativity itself. Our surface mind thinks this will work; but it does not.
We need a different approach to thinking about such occurrences. This approach is a type of thinking that goes beyond human reasoning, judging or justifying. It is Whole Spirit of this presence we call God. This presence will lead us to the help we need when we are in the midst of the unexplainable afflictions in life. It comes to us indirectly and turns our minds to a different level of thinking so that we can perceive and understand the right answer, or at least be receptive to divine guidance.
In the story of Job, it is stated, “… there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.” It is only spiritual discernment that can explain a thought or how you move a little finger, or the miracle of creation. These are things that are beyond the human level of explanation; it is in the dimension where spiritual understanding lies. Only here can we find help in the face of the mysterious, the unexplainable and the seemingly unjust afflictions in life.
In the meantime, we pray for comfort for those who lost love ones in Pittsburg as well as in Louisville. We also pray for the perpetrators. Along the way, let us hold the vision and do our part to create societies and a world where people no longer believe in a sense of “otherness” and send hate to those who appear different. We start with ourselves.
The Truth is, we are all children of God. On a soul level, we are all One in the Spirit. Let us do our part by living this Truth until it becomes the dominant consciousness for our world.
Peace and Blessings,