(by Christopher Fredrickson from Brutal Planet and Chumash HaShavuah)
Why do bad things happen to good people? What a common question and one people often ask because at times we do not get a concise answer. One thing I have often said in my radio career is for one to "rejoice in your failure". Why on earth would I say such a thing? I have even taken this to another level and said "in some ways pray for failure". Rabbi, you got to be kidding me...pray for failure?! Have you gone mad? No I have not. Let me explain this premise.
Notice how in our times of desperation and times we have been smacked by a brick wall we have received a deeper mussar (light, wisdom, applied admonition of correction) in our lives. This happens often. Can a person know the hell's of drug usage from a person who had never done a drug in their life? I remember all through elementary school we had the DARE program come to the schools and teach us that drugs were harmful. Then in middle school David a Thompson came and spoke at Liberty a Middle School and he was a professional basketball player in the 1970s and this guy was better and could have achieved more than Michael Jordan. This guy had people put quarters on the top of the backboard of the goal and he could jump up and grab them in the palm of his hand. He was an incredible athlete. But after only a career of a few years he got mixed up into drug usage and his NBA career was over. He was what we call a "cautionary tale". I think in some respect to the things we bring upon ourselves through experiences in our lives cause us to become a cautionary tale that help us make a real connection and see the effects of an action better than someone who says "don't do that, I never did". Does this mean we should purposefully screw up or be less mindful of our actions to gain mussar? God forbid! But we all have instances in our lives where we can say "dude I have been there".
Now what about those who have lived a good life? Those who have devastation just hit them? What is the reason for their suffering? For we must remember "we fight now against flesh and blood" and that the outer court of a person is not what is considered holy for it wasn't in terms of the Bayis Hagmigdash either. It is the nefesh (soul) that resides the inner essence of a person. So until a person has expired they are very much alive in physical form and after they pass on our sages say they are even more alive then, and moreso than they were before in their physical existence. So we see this as being a matter of the nefesh.
With that being said, take a person who has health difficulties. In my case I have type 1 diabetes, I am also a guy who works 60 hours a week between 2 jobs, runs a full time ministry, and also produces on average 3 teachings a week that take me 6 hours each to edit and upload. I am an extremely busy guy. There have been times when I have had severe low blood sugars because I have not gained enough rest and at times have not been able to, or has forgotten to eat because of my hectic schedule. When this happens and the severe lows hit, instead of asking "why me?" I look to what Hashem is trying to reveal and it tends to be "Christopher you need to slow down" and so he causes me to rest for the remainder of the day. It is because of Hashem's goodness he does this, and because of his personal correction He does this. At times we see this as being something from the external satan. When we think this and say this we place a huge X in the verses that make note that Hashem is in control of everything. We are in a rough place spiritually when we don't know the difference between God and the enemy and it is something we need to overcome.
Take a person who is on their way to am important business meeting in another state. The attendant at the airline tells them they have been bumped and need to take another flight that will be leaving in an hour. Chances are the person bumped will see this as being a major inconvenience and may become enraged and verbally assaulting to the attendant who had to bump them. But then they hear a few hours later that the original flight the man was supposed to be on crashed into the ocean and there are no survivors. How then will they see being bumped from that plane? At times hindsight is 20/20.
In many cases situations escalate because we have shut Hashem's gentle hints out of the way. Maybe one day you realize after putting your rent money in your pocket that you seemed to have dropped the final $10 for your rent somewhere and it fell out of your pocket. That would be a gentle reminder from Hashem saying "manage your money better". But if a person has a blockage and doesn't look for Hashem they will simply say "darn it I lost $10" and just complain and think that is is nothing more than a random coincidence. The next time Hashem may cause the person's manager to cut their hours at work because of the fact the employer hired more people or maybe the company isn't doing so well and cannot afford the 40 hours a week the person used to get. Financially they take a hit. And they struggle to make ends meet. So Hashem has upped the anti anty a little here trying to reach that person. But again the person still has that blockage, so they then blame their boss and they blame the company and they blame other employees and they act out of their Yetzer Hara. Because of their actions and failure to realize all things come from Hashem the person is then fired from their job because of their constant complaints and the lowering of morale in the work place. Hashem has really made it apparent at this point but the person resists still and doesn't see Hashem in the situation and they get behind on their bills. They then go to interviews for other jobs and when the perspective employer says "what happened at _______ where you worked previously". The person then blames management or the company. So the prospective employer gets an ideal as to what this perspective employee is all about and refuses to hire him, the same with other perspective employers. So then what happens is Hashem is still trying to show the person the issue they have but he has hit them a little harder each time because the person has not be receptive to Hashem's loving correction from the beginning of this trend.
Now this is not to say a person who goes through constant trials is a bad person. God forbid. Instead the sages say in Arachin 16b that if a person has fourth days consecutively without tribulations, he or she has forfeited their share in the World to Come. It is also stated in tractate Kiddushin 40b that the righteous receive tribulations in order to merit a lofty place in the World to Come. This is why Rav Sha'ul in the Brit Chadasha notes many times the tribulations he had went through. This showed that he was genuinely a Tzaddik and needed constant refinement. A Tzaddik is not one who thinks they do not need to be refined. God forbid. However they realize that Hashem is constantly working on them and constantly molding them and that their trials are to move closer to Hashem and to learn how to refine the blemishes they have. For a Tzaddik is not one who is perfect. We mustn't ever think such a think. A Tzaddik however is one who always has his ear open to Hashem's tikkun, and as we learn this and apply this and realize this we see that the bad things that happen in our life are for our own good and for the good of others so that we may be able to help others see what we have learned in our trials and proclaim loudly to "open your ears to the voice of Hashem!" Hashem brings trials and tribulation to the ones He loves. And He does it for the reason that they may help bring others into the Olam Haba.
Hashem stated in Deuteronomy that He gives us instruction so that we may live. Now Rabbeynu Bachya states in Duties of the Heart that the inner satan known as the Yetzer Hara (literally: The Evil Inclination) has one goal. And that is to kill you. And not just physically but spiritually. When Hashem is forced to escalate his trials and tribulations it is to kill the lies being said to us by that of the Yetzer Hara. Often times it is our mindset of ceremonial observance that causes us to not take the subtle hints and the tikkun from Hashem and this is why He screams even louder to correct us. It is because He loves us an He hates the inner adversary that us within us and what the inner adversary within us can do to cause us to destroy ourselves. Observance of Torah is not ceremonial yet introspective as we progress we learn to fulfill mitzvos chukim and mishpatim laws in a way that it helps us to bridge the connection to Hashem's tikkun He wishes to give us.
For in all of Hashem's Creation there is his breathe in which it was created. In every gust of wind Hashem is there, in every rainfall He is there, with every lion's roar and every baby's cry he is there. Find him in all things and your trials will still come but however you will have a constructive response to them which will bring you closer to the mind and heart of Hashem.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)