It’s the age-old question.
The question the opponents of Christianity ask.
The question that even Christians ask.
Why does a good God let bad things happen?
A few years ago, an article became very popular on social media. It was shared with me repeatedly over the course of a month or two.
The author’s basic conclusion was that God didn’t let bad things happen.
Bad stuff just happened because that’s life, and life sucks.
God had nothing to do with it.
The author particularly disliked the idea that anyone would say that everything happens for a reason.
She took issue with that.
She said everything most certainly did not happen for a reason.
She focused on her own understanding and miss one important factor: Almighty God.
While I understand that telling someone their child died for a reason could be very discouraging and hurtful, I stand strong and steadfast by the idea that everything does in fact happen for a reason.
How do I know?
Because, I understand the nature of God.
In previous posts, I’ve endorsed a Catechism. I believe it’s helpful for both children and adults.
A catechism is a set of questions about God and the Bible which provides succinct answers to those questions. See the catechism we used.
Answers about the nature of God.
What do we know about the nature of God?
To quote my friend, Valerie Serafin: “If [we say] He did not allow [trials] then we would be stating that He is not omnipotent. He IS all powerful: He has the ability to prevent trials and suffering. Therefore, what He does not prevent, He allows. [It’s] rather simple.”
There are two kinds of trials:
1. God allows trials to grow us. (Example: Job)
2. God gives trials to discipline us. (Example: David and Bathsheba)
Both are true.
One is His direct influence (discipline).
The other is given with His permission (growth).
He is God.
Nothing happens unless He either directs it or permits it.
Let me say it again: nothing happens without His direction or permission.
If you say otherwise you are saying that God is not all powerful.
This is not in accordance with scripture or what we know about the nature of God.
Everything happens either for our growth or or discipline.
Therefore, everything does happen for a reason.
I have heard the argument that God doesn’t tempt us to sin, therefore he can’t give trials. But James says when you’re in a trial, don’t misunderstand it and think God is tempting you. I would allow my child to struggle to learn to walk or grow, but I would never try to trick them into or persuade them to sin.
That is not how God works; it isn’t in accordance with God’s character.
The real issue is that people don’t like the idea that God would allow something that they see as bad to happen.
They feel like it’s unfair.
I’m sorry to have to tell you that God doesn’t make executive decisions based on your feelings, on your sense of fairness.
“[This] is a hard pill for people to swallow. The ‘But what about XYZ???’ lists go on and on….but what did [God] allow to happen to Job? ALL his children were killed the same day. All of them. Killed. This was a man who loved God. Who did nothing wrong. He doesn’t just allow hangnails, folks.” -Martha Thompson
Was Joseph being sold in slavery fair?
Was Jesus dying for sins He never committed fair?
Was Stephen being stoned to death fair?
Was Paul suffering in chains for Christ fair?
Jesus calls us to follow Him into an unfair life.
Or at least it’s unfair if you view these topics through the world’s eyes, through earthly eyes.
Let’s see if we can get a glimpse of what God sees.
He has a purpose for everything.
He can’t be anything but good.
He is absolutely, 100% wholly and absolutely good.
Therefore, the things that He chooses to allow in our lives are good.
Even if they seem like bad things to us.
If you think what He does is not good, it’s your sense of good that has a problem.
Job has this very discussion with his wife (with whom I am far from impressed). He asked her if we should only accept the good pleasant things from God and not the bad.
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
In other words, God sends things that seem bad and things that seem good.
We don’t get to pick and choose.
He has a plan.
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
He’s good and faithful.
We can trust the plan –even if we can’t see it.
We can trust that the plan is good even when we don’t understand because God Himself is good.
He can’t do anything apart from His nature.
Therefore His plan is good, even when it doesn’t seem good to us.
Why would He do something that doesn’t seem good to us?
“He has the right. He has every right. And if we feel there is something unjust about something He does, our concept of ‘just’ …is off.” -Martha Thompson
This is where some people get tripped up.
They can’t believe that God would allow something “bad” to happen.
But what if we only think it’s bad?
But God, He sees the good?
Like when the cat freaks out that you’re trying to remove it from the tree, because it isn’t smart enough to understand it’s in danger.
God’s ways are higher than ours, and we can’t understand why He’s doing what He’s doing.
But that doesn’t make what He’s doing bad –just like I’m not wrong to try to get my cat out of the tree just because the cat thinks I’m being mean.
The cat doesn’t understand.
Just like we don’t understand God.
As parents, we sometimes allow “bad” things to happen to our children so that they will learn and grow. Our children are even sometimes angry or frustrated that we allow it to happen.
We’re not mean parents –even if the child thinks so.
If that were the case, we would always keep the child from falling, and they’d never learn to walk or run or ride a bike.
God is our Heavenly Father.
We are His foolish little children.
How about we not be angry at God for doing what He believes is best?
How about we not deny that He is all powerful simply because we don’t like the manner in which He uses His power?
That’s akin to the four-year-old who gets angry and says to her mother, “You’re not my mommy!”
A foolish child’s rejection of the truth doesn’t change the truth.
A foolish Christian’s rejection of the truth of God does not change the truth.
But it makes you a fool.
You deny yourself the freedom that comes from knowing you’re safe in the hands of an all-powerful, loving God.
It empties you of the joy that comes from throwing yourself on His grace and trusting Him through whatever He allowed to come into your life.
But mostly, it does not honor God when you claim to serve Him but deny His power in your life to do whatever He chooses without your permission or approval and regardless if it offends your sense of fair.
You deny God the credit due Him for the power that is rightfully His when you say that there are things outside His power.
The answer to the question “Why does God let bad things happen?” is actually quite simple:
He has a plan you can’t understand which will ultimately work out for good even though you can’t understand it now.
Just trust Him.