You write…

Dear Jewish Girls Unite,

Why does G-d allow people to suffer?


We respond…

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your question.  Sometimes it is asked from a place of pain, and though I am not aware of your specific situation, I first want to acknowledge the difficulty of whatever you may be facing.  Your feelings are valid, and I commiserate with you.

We are raised to believe that G-d is and does only good; so, when it seems He is not ‘delivering the goods,’ it is understandable to feel disappointed, distressed, even angry.

You are not alone in your question.  Many of us wonder this at some time or another.  Even noted and righteous figures through our history have asked this, not just theoretically or philosophically, but in a very real sense, while facing challenge or personal tragedy.

Interestingly, there is a paradox to the question, “Why does G-d allow people to suffer?”  The paradox is that we want to know why, and at the same time we don’t really want to know why, but rather we want the situation to be different.

Because the motivating force behind this question is, actually, our deep-rooted belief that there is an infinitely-powerful Someone (G-d) Who directs everything that transpires in the universe (even suffering) with a Divine purpose.  Consequently, if He so chooses, of course He can accomplish whatever He desires to without causing any of His creations pain.  So why doesn’t He, always?!  In our forefather Avraham’s words, “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”

Herein lies our question.

“Why does G-d allow people to suffer?” beneath the surface really expresses our righteous indignation at G-d allowing this when He has alternate routes to achieving His purpose, where no one is hurt.  At the same time, we acknowledge that G-d must have a reason for necessitating misfortune, though that reason itself is unclear to us.  And for as long as that is so, how G-d recognizes adversity from His all-knowing perspective radically differs from the dark struggle we humanly perceive.

The only way to find out the reason for suffering is if and when G-d reveals it to us.  Therefore, we demand He reveal why He allows it.  Only He – and no human – can answer that.  Do not allow others to minimize your pain by trying to rationalize it; they cannot speak for G-d.

But… is there any disadvantage to knowing why He allows suffering?  Let me reiterate what I stated before, that we may not want to actually know why the situation is as it is, but rather we seek its transformation.  If we knew why G-d allowed suffering, we would begin to make peace with it and cease to protest it.  If we could explain away pain, we would lose our precious ability to empathize with one another in our pain.  And that is truly distressing to imagine.

Perhaps G-d withholds His inside knowledge of adversity and its ultimate purpose because He wants us to feel with others, to refuse to settle for darkness, and to strive for a brighter tomorrow.  Perhaps we can accept our own circumstances from G-d, knowing they are all ultimately good; however, we can never excuse the pain of other people.

Our outrage over suffering is a formidable force to take action, to support one another, to change the world where we do not see G-d fixing it, and to prevail upon Him to bless us with revealed goodness.  May it happen soon with the ultimate Redemption and Moshiach’s arrival.

Until then, keep questioning and challenging G-d.  Allow space for the anger or hurt you feel inside.  And keep your faith.

We are here to support you on your journey.  ♥

Tzipporah, Teen Staff @ JGU

P.S. Readers are welcome to join the discussion in the comments section, below.