Why Bad Things Happen

Why do bad things happen to good people?

This question has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  The argument has often been stated as follows: if God is a good and loving God, while also being omnipotent and omniscient, then why do bad things happen?  If God loves God’s people, then God should protect them…at least that is the way many people approach this question.

And yet, is it as simple as all of that?  Harold Kushner had this response to this question in his book by the same title.

“I don’t know why one person gets sick, and another does not, but I can only assume that some natural laws which we don’t understand are at work. I cannot believe that God “sends” illness to a specific person for a specific reason. I don’t believe in a God who has a weekly quota of malignant tumors to distribute, and consults His computer to find out who deserves one most or who could handle it best. “What did I do to deserve this?” is an understandable outcry from a sick and suffering person, but it is really the wrong question. Being sick or being healthy is not a matter of what God decides that we deserve. The better question is “If this has happened to me, what do I do now, and who is there to help me do it?” As we saw in the previous chapter, it becomes much easier to take God seriously as the source of moral values if we don’t hold Him responsible for all the unfair things that happen in the world.”
Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People

As you read Kushner’s response, it is clear that Kushner does believe that God is loving.  However, Kushner will not acknowledge that God “causes” all things to happen.  Instead, there are many different reasons why things may happen to people, not the least of which is that we live in a sinful and fallen world.

As I look at the ways in which the Bible deals with this issue, I take great comfort in the Psalms.  The Psalms regularly lift up the ways in which God’s people cry out to God, plead with God for assistance, and even lash out at God in anger.  Throughout all of these conversations with God, God is seen to listen and respond to the cries and concerns of people.

In the Gospels, we often see Jesus coming across people who suffer and cry out to him for assistance.  In these instances, Jesus stops and offers healing, forgiveness, and acceptance.  In the midst of our need and suffering, we too can cry out, and Jesus will hear us. 

At the same time, it seems as if the Bible is telling us that there are times when God does not assist people in the way that they desired or on their timetable.  At the end of the Book of Job, Job had finally had enough suffering in his life and criticized God. In response, God reminded Job that God was God, and Job was not…”Where were you, Job, when I was creating the earth?”  When we are struggling, it is often hard for us to see the ways in which God IS answering, the ways in which God IS working in our lives and the world.

Even more than this, though, I find comfort in the words of St. Paul when he says, “Therefore, we do not lose heart (we do not give up, we do not despair).  Though outwardly we are wasting away (our bodies are failing, our relationships may be broken, our spirits are shaken by trauma, we are dismayed by the state of the world around us), inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.  You see, our holding on, hanging on, and surviving this life is not up to us.  Instead, we can trust that God is the one who renews us.  God is the one who gives us strength and comfort and peace.  God is the one who, through Jesus, has come to bring all things to himself.  St. Paul also give us this promise in Romans, “Nothing in all of creation can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Despite all the bad things that may occur in this world, we do not face them alone.  While God does not always soar in on a magic carpet to fix the problems that we experience, God does not leave us to face them alone. 

On a personal note, as I have journeyed with my mother over these months in Hospice, we have not been alone.  Not only have I been strengthened by God through prayer and reading Scripture, I have also been encouraged and supported by the body of Christ – my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who minister to my mother and me.  We are NOT alone.  We are NOT abandoned.  God is acting and responding to our prayers, it may simply be in a different way than we expect.

What are your thoughts?              What are your reflections?             What has been your experience with God’s presence or absence in your walk of faith?


4 Responses to “Why Bad Things Happen”

  1. Joanne Trout says:

    Several years ago, too sick to pray for myself, I received comfort and peace from God through the prayers of others. I was aware of this and truly not alone!

  2. Pastor Will says:

    Thank you for sharing this response….You are so true. There is incredible power and peace in the Communion of Saints, our brothers and sisters in Christ lifting us up in prayer. Through them, God gives us the peace and strength to press through those times.

  3. Linda Mathias says:

    I do believe everything happens for a reason. I embrace every hard time & struggle in my life because through them I now have a personal relationship with Jesus.

  4. Cindy Johnson says:

    Looking at the hard times through the rear view mirror, I see God’s hand so much more clearly.

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