Why do bad things happen to good people?

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There is a side of this life that seems utterly inconsistent with faith in a good God. 

Why parasites and head lice, insects, beasts with claws and beaks,  preying on one another?  Why cancer and polio?  Why little children born blind, with syndromes and diseases and autism?  When we think about all the suffering, we wonder how any God there may be can stand it. 

Richard Jeffries writes of a young boy looking long at a picture of Christ’s crucifixion until, perturbed by its cruelty, he turns the page to escape the sight of it, saying, “If God had been there, he would not have let them do it.”  And yet, in strange paradox, it is at Calvary that Christian faith most clearly sees God revealed.

Can we question God?  Moses asked, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” (Exodus 5:22 (NIV)

Gideon asked, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13 NIV)

Elijah asked, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  (1Kings 17:20 NIV)

Habakkuk complains, “Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”  (Habakkuk 1:13 NIV)

Even Jesus on the cross asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NIV)

“God is love.”  “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”  If God is love, how can such evil exist?  If God is love, no wonder an American surgeon says that, if he ever he comes face to face with God, he will carry a cancer cell with him and will show it to God, asking Why?

Certainly to let the problem of evil drive one into atheism is no solution to the problem.  If there is no God, then one faces the problem of goodness, beauty, truth, all that is lovely in music and art, all that is admirable in character, and the problem of good seems to be far more important and difficult to solve that they problem of evil.  Can we even imagine that all that is good here is the result of some random evolutionary process that by mere chance, with no intelligent guidance has produced you and me?

“Mothers and music and laughter of children at play, great minds discovering truth, great artist creating beauty, towering characters, Christ over all, lifting human life to new levels – there, in goodness, is the problem I want solved, and atheism has no explanation to offer.

The Major Causes of Human Suffering

First, the law-abiding nature of the universe.

A little child falls out a tenth-story window, and the law of gravitation is merciless.  Can we turn on and off the law of gravity, to suit our desire?  Where would the rest of creation be, at random moments floating off and then crashing down again?  Or the sun to shine for a moment and then not?  Or steel to be heavy and strong and the next moment, light and flexible?  The world would be chaos.

Second, the ability to create.

We live in a world that is changing.  Our understanding of this world continues to advance.  With this advancement comes great technologies that advance our lives.  We can’t wait for the next I-phone and we love our new 54” televisions.  We travel in cars at 70 miles an hour and planes that go 500.  We love a hot shower thanks to a hot water heater and hot food thanks to the microwave.  But with all of these inventions also came guns that kill, not only deer, but also people, and bombs that turn cities into ashes.  What can be used for good can also bring us great tragedy, from guns and bombs, to cars and planes, and even swimming pools.

Third, we have the power of choice.

If I told you Gene Neely made the all-American team in football, played centerfield in baseball, shot in the 80’s on the golf course, a master at tennis, you would say he had a great physique.  What would you say if I told you he only had one arm?  He lost the other due to a shotgun wound.  He chose to take what he had and make the most of it.  He was not a robot that was thrown aside as damaged goods.  He chose the way that he responded to his circumstance and he overcame the obstacles. 

We have the ability to choose to do great things.  We can be amazingly loving and caring.  We can bring such hope and joy to the lives of others.  We can give out lives to travel around the world bringing food to the needing and salvation to the lost.  We can love our neighbor as ourselves.  We can visit the widow, care for the orphan, and give our children great gifts.

Now consider the evil that we suffer at the evil of mankind.  Consider Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq, who tortured and murdered thousands of his own people.  Or Hitler who killed 6 million Jews, or Pol Pot who killed well over a million people during his control of Cambodia.

Think of the evil that mankind suffers because of the misuse of our free will, from making fun of others, to gossip, to name calling, adultery, divorce, murder, to the evil despots of this world.  Much of the cruelty that we face is all by the bad choices of mankind, including ourselves. 

Forth, we live in relationship.

We are not lone individuals in this world.  We live in relationship.  We are woven together by loyalty, love, mutual need and interdependence, into homes, friendships, families and communities.  This fact of fellowship not only brings us our greatest and deepest joys, but it also brings us our most heartbreaking tragedies.  The pain that is caused by the injury or loss of another.  How we are hurt when our loved one dies.  But would we exchange all of the love and joy for the freedom from hurt when others’ lives are deeply affected? 

First, the law-abiding nature of the universe.

With this is also the fallen world in which we live.  The burning sun, the insect bites, the weeds, the pain of childbirth, the Bible all explains as the result of the curse of God as a result of the sin of man.  Even with all of the trouble also came sunscreen for the sun burn, Martin birds to eat the insects, the valor of man to turn the chaos of the storm into great victory.

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Second, the ability to create.

Third, we have the power of choice.

With our ability to create being corrupted by our power of choice, can we blame God for the evil caused by man?  Could God have stopped a jealous husband from being so foolish that his driving kills an innocent mother and child?  Certainly.  Does God ever intervene?  Certainly, but not always.  Can we stand in the place of God?  Can we work great tragedy into victory?  Would we be wise in determining who lived and who died? 

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)  20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 

Forth, we live in relationship.

Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV)  “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 

Romans 8:28 (NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

They call God omnipotent, or all powerful, as though that means that God can do anything whatsoever, that he confronts no limites, faces no obstacles, but has  a free hand to do anything he pleases.  He cannot make two plus two equal five or create a triangle that the sum of the angles is great than 180 degrees.  He cannot give man the power of choice without granting him power to choose evil as well as good.  He cannot eliminate all hardship, risk, pain and difficulty from life and still expect courageous characters and venturesome minds to develop.  Omnipotence is not magic.  God could not make Hitler a good man without Hitler’s consent or co-operation.

Read the Bible with such facts in mind, and see how far from being all-powerful, as many conceive that term’s meaning, God is pictured as being.  Throughout the Bible God has a struggle on his hands.  He will conquer in the end, but even for him the price is costly.  Even God, living in relationship with man, has experienced great pain at the hand of man.

The evil of man turned to great victory.

Nearly 2,000 years ago they spat on him, ridiculed him, beat him brutally, crowned him with thorns and nailed him to a tree.  It was one of the cruelest acts of man and it has turned out to be mankind’s supreme blessing.  No cross, no Christ!  I tell you there is a Power behind and in this mysterious universe who will yet bring victory to the best over the worst, and will vindicate the faith of those who have believed in him.