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Why does God Make People Sick?

Why does God Make People Sick?

Q: Why does God make people sick?


Q. Why does God make people sick?

A. This question provides you, the parents, with a unique opportunity -- to begin to talk with your son or daughter about what is perhaps the most important question that human beings struggle with.

If there is a God and if He's supposed to be just, then why is there so much pain, why do innocents suffer? Contained therein are the big questions (such as, "How can one believe in God after the Holocaust?") and the personal ones (such as, "Why did my child suffer and die?"), but all of them have the same root.

Many parents are afraid of this question. Don't be.

Many parents are afraid of this question. Don't be. In fact, tell your child how proud you are of him/her. It's an excellent question and it shows that he or she is really thinking about ideas that are important. Let your child know that all questions are okay and that you grapple with the very same issues.


As in all painful topics, it is incredibly important for the adults to have some sense of what it is they believe, before giving answers to their children.

What do you believe? How do you understand pain and suffering, national holocausts and personal ones? How do you struggle with your own pain? Your child will be greatly influenced by your approach.

My parents are Holocaust survivors, and it is their trust in God, and their struggle with that trust, that I carry with me. While I can't possibly do justice to this very important topic in the format of an article, the following is a very brief summary of the fundamentals of this issue from the perspective of observant Judaism:

  1. Nothing in this world occurs without the will and input of God. There is no random suffering.

  2. All suffering has meaning and that meaning, in some way, is of benefit to the individual in pain.

  3. God loves each one of us no matter what, unconditionally. It makes no difference whether we have sinned many times or just a few times, the love is constant and without limitations. And therefore it is wrong to assume that God must be angry at the sufferer. Judaism teaches that God loves us, period.

  4. We are not expected to understand or to feel this love when we are in pain, and it is human, and legitimate, and certainly permissible, to feel anger with God at times. Our anger though, does not change the reality of God's love, in the same way that when our children are angry at us, we love them anyway.

  5. While Judaism does teach about rewards and punishments, you have to know that suffering is not always a punishment. It always has meaning and it is always about growth, though that growth may be difficult, and sometimes incredibly difficult to discern.


Once, when one of my children was about a year old, I took him to the doctor because he was due for an immunization. I remember sitting in the examination room waiting for the nurse to get the shot ready, holding my young son and thinking that there is absolutely nothing I can say to him to explain the pain that he was about to experience, nothing. No talks about biology and immune systems, no intellectual rationale at all.

The look on his face, the look that he gave me while receiving the immunization, will stay with me for always. It was an image of betrayal -- not only did I not protect him, I conspired with the ones who hurt him by actually holding him still.

It was an image of betrayal -- I had conspired with the ones who hurt him.

And again, there were no words to be spoken to my son. The only thing I could do was hold him. Afterwards, I remember thinking about God and reflecting that this is how God must feel. When the pain is necessary and yet cannot be explained in any terms understandable to the human intellect, He still loves us and hopes that we will continue to trust Him. He hopes too that we can feel His arms around us, holding us.


None of the above actually justifies individual events and individual sufferings, but should rather be taken as an approach to this painful subject. Every child is different in intellect and sophistication, and of course, age is a factor.

It is essential that your response to this question reflects these differences. Obviously, an eight-year-old should not receive the same answer as a 14-year-old. But all children should come away knowing:

        that they asked a good question,

        that it is a difficult one with no easy answers,

        that you grapple with the issue yourself,

        that suffering has meaning, and

        that God loves them always.

February 12, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 3

(3) johnson, March 24, 2002 12:00 AM

wish toknow more in depth

its worth reading and knowing

(2) Anonymous, January 16, 2002 12:00 AM

Like a bird struggling to remove itself from an eggshell...

I have heard it said many times that our struggles here on earth only make us stronger. If you were to watch a baby bird struggle to get out of it's shell, you would be very tempted to help it all you could. The result of your compassion on the baby bird would in most cases kill it.
It is the same with God. He could choose to remove all struggles from us, but that would leave us weak and vulnerable. (Always remember, a muscle that is not used will atrophy). We go through struggles four our own benefit and learning. The next time you go through something, make sure to thank God for the opportunity of growth.

(1) Anonymous, November 26, 2001 12:00 AM

Our 4 year old son shocked the doctor when he said, "Thank you" after getting his polio vaccine...

We had gotten ours first...(It was about 40 years ago), then asked him whether he wanted his in his arm or elsewhere. The 4 year old Michael opted for his arm,(like his mommy and daddy)...didn't cry...but got off my lap, started to walk out the door, turned around and said 'thank you'. Our explanation had been that we were getting polio vitamins, the only concept I could think of....

And about sickness, my much younger brother claims that our father said that Ha Shem sends sickness/(tzarot of any kind) to give the people around the sick one an opportunity to 'shape up and take notice'...I don't remember that and it surely was a very long time ago...My guess is that different illnesses have different messages. Sometimes it's time for a person to remember "Im ain ani li...the doctors have to be for him/her..." and a rest or change of pace is called for...

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