I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to believe that’s the most often asked question in regards to our Lord. We’ve all wondered why God would let a good person die young. Why children are stricken with disease, why people suffer mental and physical abuse at the hands of others, why corporations can take our livelihood, our money, our homes and our sense of security.
Well, the answer to that is greatly reliant on the question itself. First things first, there are no “good people”. Sure, my wife’s grandmother is possibly the sweetest woman I’ve ever met. Sure my son makes me smile so big I think my face can’t handle it. Sure I’ve witnessed people giving selflessly to the point of injuring themselves. But, we’re all still sinners. We all do things, daily, that separate us from God’s holiness.
So, does that mean God just brushes us off as bad people, deserving of the bad things that happen in this life? Ha! Not at all.
God loves us with a perfect love that far exceeds anything we could ever imagine while saddled with these flesh and blood bodies.
Ephesians 2:4-5 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
But, what about the times when we don’t feel so loved? Is God holding back his love, like we sometimes do when we’re angry with a loved one? Have you ever realized you were acting in an unloving manner to a member of your family or one of your friends? How about a random stranger? I’m ashamed to admit I have… far too often. It’s this bad behavior we engage in that can erroneously form our opinion of how God behaves.
Thankfully, God never acts like us in that manner. He NEVER stops loving us.
So, then, back to the question of why do bad things happen?
We need to remember God is good, all the time not just when He feels like it. He isn’t good only when we think we deserve it. His love isn’t restricted to the moments when we’ve done some random act of kindness or treated others as Christ treats us.
God’s love is all the time. 24/7. Eternally. God’s love never stops for coffee, steps out for minute, takes a nap or closes for lunch. He’s never too busy, too distracted, too overwhelmed or too mired down in circumstances to love us unconditionally. Ever.
God’s love can’t be any more complete, any more “always on,” or any more permanent. So, with that in mind, we need to compartmentalize “bad things” into two categories. The first being bad things with no apparent upside. The second being bad things that lead to good things, kind of like the pain you feel after a good work out.
The bad things with no apparent upside can come from our own poor decisions, which are more consequences of our free will than a lack of God’s love. It’s not God’s fault we got burned when we stuck our hand in the fire.
They can also come from spiritual warfare, as the enemy strives to dishearten you, attack you and drag you down while planting things in your mind that blame God. Think of the initial question “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” By its very nature, that question is blaming God for the circumstances, even though the blame for them might fall on Satan’s shoulder’s or our own.
But, one thing God loves to do is take Satan’s trifling and turn it into something good. For instance, my beautiful wife recently gained a lot of weight. I’m sure the enemy was overjoyed at her pain. But, God turned it back on him, giving her the strength to slim down and then using her weight loss to inspire a host of others to fight back with their own physical struggles.
Something bad, turned into something good.
When faced with “bad things” always remember: God is good ALL the time.
The second aspect of bad things is those with an upside that we might not see at first. These can come about from a number of things. For instance, as my good friend Steve pointed out the other day, when our children get sick, it’s a necessary “bad thing” that builds their immune system. God is pruning their immunities so they can grow stronger.
The term “pruning” sounds painful. The first time I encountered it in a spiritual sense, it was brought to my attention in the form of gardening, where a gardener chops off branches. Consider a rose bush, full and lush. The gardener must periodically chop off so many branches that it ends up looking small and pitiful. If someone chopped that much off of me I’d be in agony, crying out to God asking why He let this happen to me. But, by the next season, the bush grows back, fuller, stronger and more beautiful than ever. And, so do we.
Pruning is painful, but necessary.
While a lot of bad things have answers and eventual upsides, we must also remember that there’s no place in the bible that promises us a wonderful life while on Earth. There are no prophesies that speak of things getting exponentially better before we move on to the next life. Nowhere in scripture is there a single passage that unequivocally states life will be constant joy and freedom from sorrow. But, it does tell us how we can have an eternal perspective, that reduces earthly sorrows to what they really are: a momentary blip on our eternal radar.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In fact, that promise is laid out in the context of God’s eternal love for us. Interesting how He ties it all together, isn’t it?
Going forward, when bad things happen I’m going to make a great effort to look for the upside. And, if I can’t find one, I’ll refocus on the eternal horizon, because there will be a time with no sorrow, no pain, no “bad things” and when that comes, all this will be nothing more than pruning of my eternal spirit.