After having our friend and guest Rabbi Eric Lakatos to CVC, a few questions have come in related to why God has allowed the Jews to suffer, especially with the Holocaust. We thought we would get his insight as a Messianic Jew to help provide some understanding. Here is what Rabbi Eric had to say on this topic:
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 1 Peter 4:1 (NIV)
Suffering in general is not pointless or meaningless. Why did the Messiah have to suffer and die? What did He do to deserve death on a cross? What sin did He commit?
From his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Kushner says, “The question we should be asking is not, ‘Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?’ That is really an unanswerable, pointless question. A better question would be ‘Now that this has happened to me, what am I going to do about it?’”
Martin Gray, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust, writes of his life in a book called For Those I Loved. He tells how after the Holocaust he rebuilt his life, became successful, married, and raised a family. Life seemed good after the horrors of the concentration camp. Then one day, his wife and children were killed when a forest fire ravaged their home in the south of France. Gray was distraught, pushed almost to the breaking point by this added tragedy.
People urged him to demand an inquiry into what caused the fire, but instead he chose to put his resources into a movement to protect nature from future fires. He explained that an inquiry, an investigation, would focus only on the past, on issues of pain and sorrow and blame. He wanted to focus on the future. He explained further that an inquiry would set him against other people – “was someone negligent? whose fault was it?” – and being against other people, setting out to find a villain, accusing other people of being responsible for your misery, only makes a lonely person lonelier. Life, he concluded, has to be lived for something, not just against something. We too need to get over the questions that focus on the past and on the pain –“why did this happen to me?” – and ask instead the question which opens doors to the future: “Now that this has happened, what shall I do about it?”
The point I am making is that there is indeed meaning and purpose behind suffering. The Sages and Rabbis of Israel believe that the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 is none other than the Nation of Israel. If this is true of how Rabbis view Israel as the “Suffering Servant” and yet also the Messiah suffers as well, then how much more important is it that we should view ourselves as such and be ready to suffer as He did? And furthermore, this could be the reason Peter said in the verse previously quoted:
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (ibid). It is even written of Moses in the Book of Hebrews:
Hebrews 11:26 (CEB) He thought that the abuses he suffered for Christ were more valuable than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking forward to the reward.
I realize that my quote of New Testament verses may not be accepted by a Jewish audience, but I am also writing for the sake of Christians. The problem with the question of “Why does God allow suffering?” is that we are not arming ourselves with the right attitudes about life from the very beginning.
Every human being is caught up in a cosmic struggle between good and evil. And Israel is at the Epicenter of this struggle. As Messiah suffers so too does Israel, so too must we be prepared to put on this same attitude – that we must not love our lives even unto death – and that suffering for the sake of the Name is more rewarding than all of the treasures of this world.
This is our calling as believers, so let’s raise our children to be strong believers in our commitment and devotion to the Messiah of Israel.