I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder why God allows bad things to happen; particularly when they happen to ‘good’ people. “Ordinarily, life seems to follow certain laws of cause and effect. People who work hard can put food on the table and pay the bills. Attentive parenting produces responsible young adults. Balanced nutrition and regular exercise generally lead to good health. But for many Christians there are times when this dependable pattern goes awry.” (C.C. James, p.87) We don’t mind so much when bad things happen to bad people- we think it is what they deserve and so secretly are a little happy because “hey, it was coming to them anyway”. But, when bad things happen to good people, it disrupts our logical pattern for life- when we experience a miscarriage, when we see a baby die, when a healthy, fit man has an accident that leads to a severely altered life, when a child from a loving family gets addicted to drugs, when the stock market crashes and we lose all our savings, when a surfer goes for a surf and gets mauled by a shark- we wonder if God is asleep on the job, if He is playing some cruel game with our life or if He is actually there at all. Our theology (knowledge of God) comes to the fore and shows us up close and personal how our beliefs really impact our heart and life, and while we realise the gospel doesn’t discriminate (thank you God!) our flesh still tells us that it is ‘unfair’ and that we ‘deserve better’ (when really without God’s grace, we deserve lots worse).
When I struggle with this, my husband Dave reminds me of four reasons, as outlined in the Bible, why God allows bad things to happen:
1. God uses suffering to reveal our spiritual condition:
In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the Prodigal doesn’t realise he was completely spiritually bankrupt until he was in the squalor with the pigs, attempting to eat pig scraps. It was this experience in his life that God allowed to happen to the Prodigal son so that the Prodigal’s spiritual condition became apparent to him. He realised he was arrogant and undeserving when he asked for his inheritance and so in humility, he came crawling back to his father pleading for mercy. In the same way, God often allows bad things to happen to show us the truth about our relationship with Him. In the same way, God doesn’t give us what we deserve- He celebrates, He robes us in spotless robes and He calls us His son or daughter- coheirs with Christ.
2. God uses suffering to humble us:
Through the life of the apostle Paul, we see God allowing suffering through their intense persecution and daily trials. As Paul explains:
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
(2 Corinthians 11:24-30)