Book review: When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

griefHarold S. Kushner, the author of this book, is a rabbi who had a son diagnosed with Progeria as a child and died shortly after his fourteenth birthday. Kushner struggled with the idea of believing in an all-powerful but fair God that allowed such tragedy to befall his family. After all, he was a rabbi who spent his life serving others in devotion to God. Kushner wrote this book to share his experience with others.

Kushner used several personal anecdotes to describe how different people deal with tragedy depending on their views of God. Particularly, he used examples of how people comfort friends and family members who might have experienced an accident or loss of a loved one. Some may try to comfort their friend by saying that God has a plan and purpose for everything. Kushner points out that this view is often hard for someone struck by tragedy to believe. How is it in God’s plan to take a young child from the mother? How is in God’s plan for me to never walk again? Sometimes it seems like the price we pay is so high to get to God’s plan. Other’s may say that God never gives us anything more than we can handle, but that makes it seem to the widow that her husband was killed because she was strong enough to bear it. Another view may be that the world is chaos and God is simply here to help us through life. People who have this belief turn to God in moments of grief in order to find strength.

Kushner had so many thought provoking ideas. For example, he discussed his idea on creation. What if in the scheme of God creating the world in six days we were really just on the fourth day and God was still working all of the chaos around us into His order? I had not really thought about thought about how our view of God influences how we deal with tragedy. Kushner really made me think about all of the facets of grief and how it related to God’s plan and power. He also made me really contemplate his views in mass tragedies as well as his thoughts on what heaven might be like. How is it possible that a plane crashes and kills hundreds that it was just “time” for ALL of those people? If someone loses the ability to walk in this life, in heaven will they regain that ability? I can understand how someone can become angry with God after he or she has experienced a personal tragedy. This book discusses some of the hardest questions we ask of God when we face hard times. It also brings to light to a lot of ideas to consider about God’s role in tragedy and how to maintain our faith despite it all.

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