The Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
Pastor, Congregational Church of Patchogue
As a white, middle-class, straight male in reasonably good health, living in a decent home in a safe neighborhood with access to water, air, health insurance, transportation, a job and faith community — I might not be the best person to ask why there is so much pain and suffering in the world. And yet, I am no stranger to pain and suffering. A childhood disease left me unable to walk until I was 7. As an adult, I survived cancer and the death of a 6-year-old daughter and serious injury of a 10-year-old-son in a car crash. How did this happen? Why? I have no idea. I do know that one child was taken, but one was spared. I know that Jesus was tortured to death. Where was God when Jesus died? On the cross. Where was God when my daughter died after the car rolled six times? In the car. Where was God when the family was howling in pain? God was with us. I stopped wondering why there is pain and suffering. I continue to wonder what we are willing to do for those facing so much pain and suffering when so much of it is radically unnecessary.
Rabbi Kayley Romick
Chaplain, Good Shepherd Hospice, Farmingdale
To a certain extent, Jewish tradition accepts suffering as a fact of life. Moses soberly states, “There will never cease to be needy ones in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11), and the exasperated psalmist cries, “How long, God? How long will the wicked triumph?” (Psalm 94:3). Yet, acknowledging the extent of suffering not only in our communities, but also across the globe, increases the weight of this unanswerable question on our modern souls. Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, the noted American Orthodox rabbi and philosopher, challenges us to transform the Hebrew question lamah — “why?” — into le’mah, meaning “toward what?”
Spiritual exploration can help individuals reflect on their experiences and, if possible, work toward healing. That said, each person deserves to ask “why” in their own time and to make their own meaning. As a witness to suffering, I show compassion by allowing the process to unfold — no matter how much I may want to jump in with my own interpretation or move the process along. In doing so, I may alleviate some of the loneliness suffering can cause, demonstrate trust in my fellow human being’s wisdom, and honor that, in the future, I will need someone to do the same for me.
Mahesh Shastri Ji
Priest, Hindu Temple of Long Island, Bethpage
According to the Hindu perspective, the Earth is one family. The world is going through pain and suffering because people are not learning about Mother Earth. They are not trying to understand what she is saying. People need to understand the message the Earth Mother is trying to send to us. Instead of sticking to centuries’ old concepts, we all need to be much wiser, kinder, gentler and humbler. We need to share our wealth with those who don’t have it. The world needs education about the situation we are going through now. Most of all it needs love — not hate. We need to live like brothers and sisters of one mother — Mother Earth. If all people could become good, wise human beings, all pain and suffering would be reduced — or even eliminated. The world can become a heavenlike place. Because there is no planet B for us. The beautiful mantra, “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,” which we say in prayer, means, “Oh, God, may all be happy and content.” May no one face pain and suffering — but for this to be true, we all must become better human beings.